Thursday 12 June 2014 

Will Pakistan Host International Cricket Again?

Pakistan players celebrate a wicket
Pakistan have not played international cricket at home since 2009 - will they ever do so again?
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Everybody knows that Pakistan have not hosted an international series since March 2009. But, after the devastating terrorist attacks on Karachi airport, the big question on everyone's mind is: Will international cricket ever return to Pakistan?

Honestly, I don't see it returning any time soon since 37 people were killed in a pair of deadly attacks on the airport this month.

With hopes of reviving international cricket through an exhibition Twenty20 tournament, set to be held later this month, Pakistan face yet another setback after South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs and New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram pulled out due to security concerns.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are not going to be able to convince any international side to play in Pakistan, no matter what they do or promise to do. This all stems from the fact that foreign teams are still haunted and scarred by the attack on the Sri Lankan national team in Lahore in March 2009.

Seven Sri Lankan cricketers, including Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Ajantha Mendis, were injured in the attack by armed militants. Tragically, six security officials and two civilians were killed during the gun battle that ensued after the attack.

There was a glimmer of hope for international cricket in Pakistan after the PCB successfully arranged for a Pakistan XI to play against a World XI in two Twenty20s in Karachi, which followed Afghanistan touring to play the 'A' team.

International stars such as former Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya, ex-West Indies batsman Ricardo Powell and Afghanistan wicket-keeper Mohammad Shahzad signed up and participated in the tournament, which was held in October 2012.

In the same month, the PCB tried to entice international sides into playing cricket in the country once again after buying bulletproof buses. This was done with the hope of ensuring a repeat of the tragic incident in 2009 would not happen again.

However, with teams still unwilling to tour, the PCB had yet again got nowhere.

After the attack, Pakistan have been forced to play all of their 'home' games in the United Arab Emirates as it was the only place close enough and safe enough to hold international matches.

However, just under four years after the despicable attack on the Sri Lankan team, Pakistan seemed to be on the verge of having international cricket returning to its shores.

Bangladesh were scheduled to tour Pakistan in January 2013, but before they could put all their plans into action, the Dhaka High Court issued a court order that banned the team from travelling to the war-torn country.

Former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf and his successor, Najam Sethi, have both campaigned fervently to bring international cricket back to Pakistan. However, all their hard work has come without any rewards as international teams continue to maintain their distance from playing in the country.

The attacks on Karachi airport will now make it that much harder for them to lure teams into touring the country as it will have definitely raised fears to levels not seen since the attack on the Sri Lankans in 2009.

Pakistan's theme of international cricket setbacks is not only limited to Full Members, as Cricket Ireland recently postponed talks with the PCB for a possible tour in September. The Karachi airport attacks have spooked teams at all levels and it is, sadly, another setback for the future of international cricket in Pakistan.

Bimal Mirwani is a cricket writer and student at Kingston University. He tweets @BimalMirwani and you can read more of his work here.

© Cricket World 2014

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