WITH yet another Test series starting today in the UAE Pakistan’s nomadic existence as an international cricket team remains unchanged since 2009 when the terrorists attacked the visiting Sri Lankan team during the second Test at Lahore, injuring seven of their players, killing eight policemen and also injuring one of the umpires.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has since made all-out efforts to convince cricket-playing countries to visit them for a home series and after Zimbabwe’s visit in 2015, the tour of the World XI earlier this month for a three-match series in Lahore has raised hopes of a full-fledged series being played in front of a home crowd hungry to watch their favourite stars of the modern-day cricket.

World XI’s tour presented a fascinating opportunity to Pakistan’s young generation to not only watch their own players but a number of foreign stars in flesh for the first time. It must have been an unforgettable experience for them and credit for this has to be given to those who worked for it and then successfully organised the series. The PCB has to be acknowledged for its effort as well as the International Cricket Council (ICC) for bringing the game back to Pakistan’s cricket-mad population.

If in any way the World XI’s visit and the appreciation that followed by the participating players is any indication of what the future holds for Pakistan cricket and its revival, then greater efforts need to be made — and with consistency — to fill up the grounds which have remained deserted for the last eight years. The consolation of a refuge in the UAE has no doubt kept international cricket going for the PCB till the time the game is securely back home.

Except for India due to political reasons, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, almost all high-profile teams have had their turn facing Pakistan in Tests and in limited over games here in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah with Pakistan more or less being dominant against them.

Be it against South Africa, Australia or England, Pakistan have never had the misfortune of losing a Test in Abu Dhabi and against a struggling Sri Lankan side, there is little chance that that record will change.

This brief two-Test series against Sri Lanka, which includes a day/night game in Dubai, is not any different apart from the fact that that some of the faces have changed in both teams, and so have their leaders.

The class of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan or the calibre that Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene will be difficult to replace in the years to come but stars emerge from time to time and records are broken, Sarfraz Ahmed and Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal expect this series to be competitive and it is hoped they lift not only the game but also its profile.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2017