Test cricket resumes in Pakistan after a 10-year absence next month and talks have opened about a visit by an England Lions team if the security situation continues to improve.
Sri Lanka will play a two-Test series in Rawalpindi on 11 December and Karachi on 19 December, becoming the first country to play Test cricket in Pakistan since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in March 2009.
South Africa, Ireland and Afghanistan have all been invited to play in Pakistan over the next six months and an MCC team is expected to tour in the spring. The club’s president, Kumar Sangakkara, was on the Sri Lankan team bus when it was attacked and is thought to be willing to be part of that tour.
Chief Executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board Tom Harrison visited Pakistan last month to review security arrangements and efforts are under way to persuade Australia it is safe too.
Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Executive Wasim Khan is in Australia for the Pakistan Test series and is due to meet the Australian Cricketers’ Association next week to share security details.
England are not due to tour Pakistan until late 2021 and will be closely monitoring the security situation and the success, and safety, of other tours to the country before making a final decision.
Khan, one of the most prominent British Asian sports administrators, has used his contacts in English cricket to help arrange talks between the two boards. He is hopeful a Lions team will be the first step towards a full tour in the future.
Khan has fulfilled his promise of bringing Test cricket back to Pakistan less than a year after leaving Leicestershire to take up his current role.
He told The Sunday Telegraph that playing in the United Arab Emirates was now off the table for Pakistan and they intend to play all home fixtures in their own country.
The Pakistan Super League Twenty20 competition has been held in the UAE with finals played in Pakistan in recent years, but the 2020 tournament will take place entirely in the country for the first time. Around 260 foreign players have signed up for the draft including England’s Jason Roy and Moeen Ali, a sign players are now more comfortable touring Pakistan.
“It has been a long road back for us but we have made significant progress over the last year. The first time in 10 years Test cricket has come back to the country. There are 220 million fanatical cricket supporters in Pakistan who have been starved of cricket. In many ways we have lost part of a generation who have not been able to see their heroes play on their home grounds but we can change that now,” said Khan.
“For the players it is the same. Azhar Ali is captaining Pakistan at the Gabba against Australia at the moment but has not yet played a Test in Pakistan. I believe now we are as safe as anywhere in the world. Recent terror attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka have shown it is a scourge everywhere. We all have to be vigilant. We are not complacent about anything but we are very confident in terms of what we can offer.
“It is early for the ECB at the moment for them to give us concrete feedback but there is a lot of time left and a lot of series to play against other countries before Australia and England come over. Both Tom and Kevin (Roberts, Cricket Australia Chief Executive) are united in supporting cricket coming back to Pakistan. As far as we are concerned we have taken playing in the UAE off the table. Pakistan is a safe place to play cricket. We don’t believe with all the security checks we are doing there is a reason to look beyond Pakistan as far as we are concerned.”
Playing in the UAE crippled the PCB financially, although Pakistan’s playing record there was impressive, and removed one of the most fascinating, and cricket-mad countries, off the touring rota, a tough blow for Test cricket, which is struggling around the world. (www.telegraph.co.uk)