Manna In The Desert For Pakistan Cricket
March 2009. A gruesome terrorist attack that literally, quite literally, threatened the lives of Sri Lankan players took place in Lahore.
Things would never be the same for Pakistan cricket.
There was a visit by Kenya. Requests are being sent to lower-ranked teams such as Nepal, Ireland and Netherlands, no offense to those teams, but a stark reminder of the status quo of cricket in Pakistan.
While Pakistan has scripted some wonderful victories in their makeshift home, UAE, Waqar Younis, the coach, hit the nail on the head when he said, there is not much talent to be found at the junior level and cricket has to come back to the nation in full swing.
In the wake of the disappointing One-Day International series loss to Bangladesh, Pakistan’s first ever to the host nation, there is some good news as well; that, cricket may finally come back in the form of Zimbabwe touring Pakistan.
With matches planned at just one venue and security given a lot of importance, Pakistan stands at the cusp of a crucial phase in its cricket history.
The nation which produced a world beating team in the late 80s and early 90s under Imran Khan finds itself languishing embarrassingly in all rankings, with many of the former greats calling the Bangladesh debacle the nadir of Pakistan cricket.
While many reasons could be ascertained to the loss, it is obvious that Pakistan just doesn’t have the cricketers it once had. More often than not, that always springs from not having a strong domestic structure in place.
Domestic structure at the grass-root levels, funds, enthusiasm for the game and passion for it are all tied in more ways than one to cricket being played in the country.
And often. And of high quality. The kind of which Pakistan audiences have only thirsted for in the last half a decade.
There have been opportunities, but Pakistan Cricket Board was thwarted when Bangladesh and Ireland had reneged on their promises to tour Pakistan, in the wake of security concerns.
Zimbabwe Cricket, not in great health in itself, might see this as a great opportunity to have their players play a good team, if not a great one on current form.
They have their own problems too, lack of regular cricket forcing a talent exodus, Brendan Taylor being the latest casualty to the Kolpak deal.
In what could be a breath of fresh air for two cricketing boards in dire need of some cricket, Pakistan is readying itself to host Zimbabwe.
In many ways, ironically, like the Pakistan India 2011 World Cup semi-final, the actual cricket will take a back-seat while other issues assume primary importance.
It is a big step no doubt, one whose success could very well lead to a turnaround in a cricket-crazy nation that has been nose-diving into oblivion in spite of all the talent that it has.
A limited over series means it wouldn’t be poetic justice for someone like Misbah-ul-Haq who has been the only saving grace for the team, the epicentre amidst chaos, collecting precious wins, leading them through tough battles and salvaging some almost-lost ones.
Only time will tell if Zimbabwe are giving Pakistan cricket a lifeline or if the series might put a nail in its coffin.
But, for the sake of cricket, for the sake of passionate, fiery and beautiful cricket, one can only hope that the mercurial side enjoys playing in front of its crowds and encourages them to love back the game they are beginning to let go of!
© Cricket World 2015