Rameez Raja credits ICC for 'braving perceptions'; bringing cricket back to Pakistan
Former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja believes the return of cricket to the country, after being shunned by most international sides for nearly eight years, has ensured that the "cricketing fraternity will not let Pakistan be left behind".
Barring a brief limited-overs tour by Zimbabwe in 2015, no international side has visited Pakistan since the Sri Lankan team's bus was attacked by armed militants outside the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in 2009. Nearly eight years later, Lahore is set to host a major international series with the World XI side, led by Faf du Plessis, due to play three T20Is later this month.
In his column on ICC website published on Friday (September 8), Raja talked about the symbiotic relationship that Pakistan shares with the cricketing world and what the resumption of cricket in the country would mean to the nation and its players.
Raja says he is hopeful that the World XI series will serve as a doorway for other teams to visit the estranged cricketing nation. "The tour by the World XI will hopefully lead to resumption of a regular international cricket calendar in Pakistan," Raja wrote. "Credit must go to the players and the ICC for braving perceptions and possible personal pleadings by family and friends to look at the larger picture. The larger picture being - you need us, we need you. That is the only essential for cricket to survive."
The unfortunate incident in 2009 had left the country and the cricketing fraternity stunned. It affected all and sundry in Pakistan. "With the passage of time, cricketing wilderness set in across the country. It affected the national psyche and perceptions about Pakistan as a safe country for cricket grew murky. But naturally, it gave way to an emotional and economic meltdown."
Seeds of cricket's revival in Pakistan were sowed in 2015 as Zimbabwe shed all fears and inhibitions for the five-game tour. About two years later, PCB successfully staged the final of the second edition of Pakistan Super League in Lahore, with a handful of foreign players also participating in it. The efforts underlined that Pakistan will fight tooth and nail to bring international cricket back home.
"The tour by the Zimbabwe team in 2015 and the successful final of the PSL this year at Lahore were fledgling signs that the cricketing world was opening up to Pakistan again. The PSL exposed the international fraternity to the frustration and helplessness of the Pakistan players, especially the young apprentices, who were being wronged by a situation which was neither of their choice nor their making."
Raja feels the Pakistan team also helped themselves by proving its mettle on the highest stage. Despite the lack of 'home advantage', Pakistan put up some notable performances, including a drawn Test series in England, achieving the No. 1 ranking in Tests, albeit briefly, and more recently, their ICC Champions Trophy triumph.
"Pakistan made a strong case for bringing world cricket back home by playing impressively out of home. Wins in the UAE, rising to No.1 in Tests, two successful editions of the PSL, and a frustrating-to-a-magical run at the ICC Champions Trophy."
Raja believes the rewards of a persistent fight for the last eight years have finally paid dividends and on September 12, the ghosts of 2009 would be dead and buried for the good. "Pakistan cricket too will soon be reaping the benefits of its hard slog over the past eight years."
More cricket will come our way after Independence Cup: Sarfraz
Lahore: Pakistan will host a World XI side in three T20Is in the coming week and the home side’s skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has said that he is “confident” that cricket would be back in the country after this series.
“I can assure all Pakistan cricket fans that we have missed playing in front of them,” Ahmed said according to an AFP report.
“But I am confident that through this tour more cricket will come our way and we will (do) our best to win for home fans,” he added.
World XI coach Andy Flower insisted that there are much bigger issues which are at stake than the results of these matches.
“Everybody involved in the series will realise there are bigger issues at stake than winning at cricket,” said former Zimbabwe batsman.
“However, I think when these excellent players get together as a team, their competitive juices will undoubtedly flow and they will come together and be doing everything in their power to win those games. I’m pretty certain about that,” added the former England coach.
PCB Chairman Najam Sethi though looked optimistic about this three-match series. “I am positive that this series will serve to open the doors of international cricket in Pakistan,” he said.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson suggested that the international council wants to have regular cricket in the countries who are a part of it,“The ICC wants to see regular international cricket being played safely in all its member countries and the World XI playing in Lahore is a step towards that for the PCB.”
“We are optimistic that this will be the next step in a steady and safe return of international cricket to Pakistan.”
LAHORE: Former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik said on Sunday that the World XI were a strong team but Pakistan’s confidence was high. He was talking to the media on the sidelines of a training match at Gaddafi Stadium ahead of a three-match series that Pakistan play with the World XI next week. “Our players play domestic cricket so they are well trained,” he said, adding that Gaddafi was their home ground so they won’t disappoint. “Senior players need to guide the youngsters,” he said further. Replying to a question that majority of the players have not played international games inside the country, Malik said: “This is a big opportunity for new players to play in front of their own people. Those feelings can’t be described in words”. In reply to another question, Malik said it is too early to talk about the 2023 World Cup as well as the 2019 World Cup. Earlier, head coach Mickey Arthur said the Independence Cup would open gates for international cricket in the country, adding that Pakistan wanted to win the series. “The series against the World XI is very important for the Pakistan side and they are not taking the other side lightly at all. We are also focusing on World Cup 2019,” said Arthur.
Wasim Akram Excited as Cricket Returns to Pakistan
New Delhi: With the ICC World XI reaching Pakistan to play three T20s in Lahore, former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram is elated. Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven players and staff. And the legendary pacer feels that the move will help in the rebirth of the gentleman’s game in the country.
Taking to Twitter, Akram wrote: “Heading to the heart of the nation for what we anticipate to be an epic rebirth of our country's beloved sport- Cricket! #CricketComesHome.”
Heading to the heart of the nation for what we anticipate to be an epic rebirth of our country's beloved sport- Cricket! #CricketComesHome
Pakistan will take a huge step towards reviving international cricket at home after years of isolation when they host the three-match Twenty20 series.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have high hopes that the series will close the dark chapter for good — and allow a new generation of players to experience the thrill of playing before a home crowd for the first time.
Juts five members of the current squad have done that before — skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Sohail Khan and Ahmed Shehzad.
"I can assure all Pakistan cricket fans that we have missed playing in front of them," Ahmed said.
"But I am confident that through this tour more cricket will come our way and we will (do) our best to win for home fans."
"Everybody involved in the series will realise there are bigger issues at stake than winning at cricket," said World XI coach and former Zimbabwe batsman Andy Flower.
"However, I think when these excellent players get together as a team, their competitive juices will undoubtedly flow and they will come together and be doing everything in their power to win those games.
"I'm pretty certain about that," added the former England coach.
Security has dramatically improved in Pakistan in recent years, but militant groups retain the ability to carry out spectacular attacks and officials are taking no chances.
Some 8,000 police and paramilitary forces will guard teams as they travel back and forth from Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium.
Roads and shops will be closed around the 27,000-capacity venue, while spectators will have to pass through multiple security checkpoints.
While some vendors around the stadium have complained about the security, fans seemed unfazed.
Since the 2009 attack Pakistan have been forced to play most of their "home" games in the United Arab Emirates -- with the PCB complaining they have incurred losses of around $120 million.
On the field, Pakistan will start favourites in their first outing since their shock victory at the 50-over Champions Trophy in England in June.
The World XI are led by South Africa's Faf du Plessis and feature his countrymen Hashim Amla and David Miller, plus Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal and Australia's George Bailey in strong batting line-up.
They have also tempted out of retirement at the age of 41 the captain of England's 2010 World T20-winning side, Paul Collingwood.
A potent bowling attack comprises South Africa's Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, with Australian Ben Cutting and West Indies' Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy.