SYDNEY: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan is hopeful of convincing Australia to return to the country after 24 years with an extensive tour involving Tests and limited-overs matches in 2022, saying, “There is no reason right now Australia won’t be coming”.
A long-awaited resumption of Australian teams playing in Pakistan appeared to move a step closer on Wednesday night when Wasim mentioned in a statement confirming a first England tour in 16 years next October that “we also expect Australia to visit Pakistan for their FTP [Future Tours Programme] commitment in early 2022.”
Contacted in Lahore by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Thursday, Wasim said there had been no agreement yet for an Australian return to Pakistan but reported talks with Cricket Australia (CA) had been positive.
“Our international cricket departments are working together on the schedule for February and March 2022,” he said. “By then a lot of cricket will have been played in Pakistan.
“There’s been no formal announcement at the moment because there is still a lot of cricket to be played. But all things going well, we’re looking forward to welcoming them in 2022.”
Under the FTP, the international playing calendar, Australia are scheduled to play two Tests, three ODIs and three Twenty20 games away to Pakistan. It was forecast last year that an Australian visit to Pakistan, if given the green light, would most likely come in the form of a brief fly-in, fly-out series of white-ball matches but the PCB would like them to stay longer.
“All of those things are being discussed at the moment,” Wasim said. “Ideally, as a PCB we would like them to come for an extended period of time, so we can complete both white and red-ball obligations.”
Australia last toured Pakistan in 1998 when captain Mark Taylor famously compiled 334 not out in the second Test at Peshawar, matching Don Bradman’s then Australian record.
Back then players could use a day off to safely take a minibus trip up the Khyber Pass and peer into Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
While international sides continued touring there until the deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, Australia haven’t been back this century because of security concerns and have instead been hosted by Pakistan in the UAE and in 2010 in England.
The emergence of the country’s own Twenty20 tournament, the Pakistan Super League, since 2015 has aided in reopening it to the cricket world and in the last three years West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have sent international sides there.
South Africa are also due there for Tests and T20s in January 2021 followed by New Zealand for white-ball games next September and England for T20 matches.
CA chief executive Kevin Roberts visited Pakistan in September 2019 on his way back from Australia’s Ashes tour of England and other Australians have played and coached in the PSL, including Shane Watson, Ben Dunk, Chris Lynn, Ben Cutting and the late Dean Jones.
“With all the safety that’s going on behind the scenes ... you would think that we’d be very close to going back,” said former Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who played in the 1998 series.
“It [Pakistan] is a beautiful place to go. I really enjoyed my tour there. Their passion for the game is second to none. I can’t see why we wouldn’t go back if everything is safe, for the good of the game in their country,” Lehmann added.—Courtesy Sydney Morning Herald
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020