London: Pakistan captain Babar Azam said on Wednesday his side had given no thought to calling off their white-ball tour of England despite the coronavirus crisis that has forced the hosts into selecting a new squad for the upcoming one-day international series.
England named an entirely revamped 18-man party on Tuesday, with the returning Ben Stokes as captain instead of Eoin Morgan, after three of their players and four support staff, all as yet unnamed, tested positive for Covid-19 in Bristol on Monday.
Meanwhile, the rest of the England party involved in the 2-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka, completed with a washed-out third match in Bristol on Sunday, were forced to self-isolate.
That meant they were ruled out of the three ODIs against Pakistan as well.
Azam, asked ahead of the first ODI in Cardiff on Thursday, if Pakistan had thought of abandoning a tour that also includes three Twenty20 internationals, told a video conference: “No, we didn’t think about it, it didn’t come into our minds at any time.
“The PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) and ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) have assured us that they will take care of the safety and health of all the squad members.
“We must understand that these are the unprecedented times of Covid-19. Then again I want to acknowledge my players that are spending time in bio-secure bubbles and we have prepared in that. We are focusing on cricket and tomorrow’s game.
Azam added: “Of course it was disappointing news and we must understand that we would not get the ideal situation because of the Covid situation.”
England may be the 50-over world champions, but Pakistan will be up against an unfamiliar side in the series opener at Sophia Gardens.
“We know most of them but there were a couple of new faces in the squad,” Azam said.
“We sat together with the analyst, we worked on them, we have seen footage of their county matches and we can’t take any player playing for England lightly.”
Azam, who has played for English side Somerset in both the County Championship and T20 Blast in recent years, added: “I know a few of them having played in the T20 Blast and those we don’t know we have researched their performances. We are expecting good cricket tomorrow.”
Azam goes into the series as the world’s top-ranked batsman in ODIs.
“I have been in good touch and I know my responsibilities,” he said.