KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on Saturday expressed his gratitude to the West Indies for playing a big part in restoration of international cricket in the country.

While addressing a crowded media conference here on eve of the first Twenty20 International at the National Stadium on Saturday, Sarfraz said these are exciting times for Pakistan cricket after the grand success of the three PSL matches, including the historic final in Karachi which ended a nine-year blackout of the mega city.

“It is a very good thing that [bilateral] international cricket is coming back to Karachi after nine years. It was heartening to see the way people responded to the Pakistan Super League. The credit definitely goes to the PCB and our agencies the way they organized the PSL matches,” Sarfraz said. “We should thank to the West Indies Cricket Board for sending their team here. They certainly deserved to be acknowledged for accepting the PCB’s invitation.

“At the same time we also would like to thank players from other countries who came for the PSL. I’m sure this [West Indies] visit will be a big success and when they go back they will tell players from other countries to come and play in Pakistan without any fear.”

On a personal note, Sarfraz also said he was excited at playing an international in his hometown for the first time in almost 10 years.

“I remember being part of the Pakistan side that played in the Asia Cup in 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed playing in front of my home crowd, especially the match against India,” the skipper recalled. “And after almost ten years, I was delighted to see the huge crowd at the National Stadium during the PSL final on TV. I believe the credit goes to the whole nation for the peaceful atmosphere and the fine contest held last Sunday.

“I appeal to the cricket fans of Karachi to come and enjoy the three matches against the Windies because they’ll get a chance to watch very good cricket,” urged Sarfraz. “The way people have made the PSL successful by packing the stadium to its capacity, I request all of them to come and support cricket. If they do the same and make this series successful, more and more international teams will come to Pakistan.”

To another question, Sarfraz said the onus is on PCB to decide the captain for next year’s 50-over ICC World Cup in England, and added that Pakistan are heading in the right direction in terms of team building for the global competition.

“To be honest, I don’t know who will be the captain at the 2019 World Cup. But better ask PCB because they only know the answer. However, I can tell you guys that our team is going in the right direction. Barring Shoaib [Malik] and [Mohammad] Hafeez all our current players are young,” the skipper pointed out.

“We have important tours coming ahead of us over the next one year. We have a Test against Ireland followed by the series in England, then in the UAE before we go to South Africa. that will be followed by another ‘home’ series against Australia. So I think we are going in right direction,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018