It’s always a matter of pride for the people of Pakistan when an international game is being played in the nation. And now, they will witness history getting scripted when Babar Azam’s Team square off against England in the first Test of the 3-match series in Rawalpindi on Thursday. The Three Lions will be playing a Test series in Pakistan after 17 years but before the opening game, the visiting camp has suffered a major blow. Almost a dozen of English players are down with an unknown illness and couldn’t make it to an optional training session on Wednesday.
The English media has claimed that skipper Ben Stokes is one of the players down with the bug. The claims were certainly testified by former captain Joe Root attending the pre-match presser on Wednesday.
Speaking with reporters in Rawalpindi, Root admitted that several players are not well and the team management is working on the way ahead.
“(Marcus) Trescothick, (Rob) Key and (Brendon) McCullum are getting ready. Seriously people are unwell, but we are hopeful they will be fine in the morning. I felt unwell yesterday but woke up much better today,” said Joe Root in the presser.
Since Stokes is among the players who are down, Root was asked if he would lead the team in the absence of his successor. The former captain denied it straightaway, saying that it could be Ollie Pope to step into the captain’s shoes.
“I don’t think so. Ollie Pope did the job in the warm-up and would do a fantastic job,” Root added.
Only five England players — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root – turned up for training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. The rest of the squad members stayed at the team hotel.
Team spokesman Danny Reuben didn’t elaborate on the nature of the illnesses or give the exact number of affected England players. But he said in a statement that the unwell players “have been advised to stay at the hotel to rest up.”
In the absence of Stokes, the Pakistan Cricket Board had to postpone the trophy unveiling of the series by a day and the ceremony will now be held on Thursday ahead of the toss for the first test.
England Playing XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Liam Livingstone, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson.