THE arrival of the International World XI in Karachi to play two exhibition matches — one of which was played yesterday — is a breath of fresh air for Pakistan cricket. While the tour is primarily a private venture which has the blessing of the Pakistan Cricket Board, it is being hailed as a step towards the revival of international cricket in the country after a gap of almost three and a half years. No foreign cricket team has toured Pakistan since the terrorist attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. All endeavours at the government, individual and organisational level to persuade teams to play in Pakistan proved fruitless.
The smooth staging of the World XI matches in Karachi, the general excitement and hopefully a positive feedback from the visiting players, who belong to Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa and Afghanistan, should contribute greatly towards convincing the International Cricket Council that Pakistan is a safe venue for cricketing events. Besides, the matches may also alter the outlook of the foreign teams themselves, concerned as they are about the security situation in the country, and help persuade them to show off their skills in Pakistan more regularly. It was indeed a welcome sight to see thousands of cricket-starved fans at the National Stadium yesterday while many others remained glued to their TV sets. Since Independence, the game has been hugely popular with Pakistanis and, in the midst of so many societal divisions, has often proved to be a uniting force and given us some memorable moments. Dedicated efforts are now needed to ensure the revival of international cricket in Pakistan. Not only will these ease tensions all around, they will also help channel youthful energies towards healthy pastimes. This is desperately needed at a time of growing, dangerous divisions.