The Pakistan cricket squad left Sunday for their England tour without 10 players who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Test skipper Azhar Ali said the tourists were looking forward to playing in what will be some of the first Test matches since the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a global lockdown.
“All the players are excited after a tough period,” said Azhar on the eve of departure.
Pakistan looking to emulate past performance in England
“Though a tour to England has always been challenging, our performances there on the last two tours (in 2016 and 2018) are encouraging and we will try to repeat those.”
Pakistan drew a four-Test series 2-2 in 2016 and a two-match series 1-1 two years later.
— CricketNDTV (@CricketNDTV) June 28, 2020
A chartered plane carried 20 squad members including two reserves, who were seen wearing masks and observing social distancing at Lahore airport in pictures released by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
All-rounder Shoaib Malik, who will be playing in the Twenty20s, has been given special dispensation by the PCB to join the team in England on July 24 after spending time with his family.
Malik has not seen his wife, Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, and one-year-old son Izhaan for five months since the imposition of international travel bans. Mirza and Inzhaan both are in India, while Malik has been in his hometown Sialkot in Pakistan.
Selectors have chosen an extended squad of 29 for the tour so that replacements are readily available in case a player falls ill.
Compensating for the lack of cricket in the past months
Pakistan’s cricketers have not played any competitive cricket since 17 March when the domestic Twenty20 tournament — PSL — was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PCB said apart from training and practice sessions in England, “there will be intra-squad matches to compensate for the lack of practice matches due to non-availability of local teams as the ECB is yet to commence its domestic season.”
The squad will face a two-week isolation period on arrival before continuing their preparations ahead of the first Test with two four-day warm-up matches.
The travelling party did not include 10 players who tested positive for the virus last week. Six later tested negative for the virus, but will players will be allowed to rejoin the squad once they have had two consecutive negative results.
Pakistan are due to play three Tests against England in August followed by three Twenty20 internationals.