Things looking up for Pakistan cricket as Australia confirm tour, England chief arriving to restore relations
LAHORE: A month ago, international cricket in Pakistan faced an uncertain future. Not anymore.
Things have changed quickly as the Pakistan team has performed at the Twenty20 World Cup, reaching the semi-finals with a perfect record in the Super 12 stage.
The cancelled tours of New Zealand and England now seem a thing of the past.
On Monday, Australia — Pakistan’s opponents in the T20 World Cup semis — confirmed that they will tour Pakistan next year for three Tests, three One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 International in March-April, marking it the first time since 1998 that they will play in the country.
Later in the day, it emerged that England Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison was due to arrive in Lahore on Tuesday morning to hold a meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja in a bid to repair relations damaged by the cancellation of their tour in October.
The ECB had cited “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” in cancelling October’s tour, days after New Zealand also pulled out of a tour to Pakistan over security concerns just as the two teams were due to kick off their first match in September.
There had been fears Australia would do the same but Monday’s announcement allayed them.
“I am delighted to welcome Australia to Pakistan. From a personal point of view, it pleases me no end that we’ll be engaged in a three-test match series, connoisseurs delight,” Ramiz said in a statement.
“Australia are one of the high-performing sides and them playing in our backyard for the first time after a gap of 24 years will be a special treat for the fans.
Read more: Australia to tour Pakistan next year for first time since 1998
“Likewise, it will be a great opportunity for the Australia cricketers to not only play at our iconic venues but also feel and enjoy the respect, love and hospitality that this great country offers, something which most of their previous generation of cricketers missed out by playing offshore.”
The Tests would be part of the World Test Championship while the ODIs would be linked to the inaugural ICC Men’s World Cup Super League.
Australia will play Tests in Karachi (March 3-7), Rawalpindi (March 12-16) and Lahore (March 21-25) followed by the limited-over matches in Lahore from March 29-April 5.
Mark Taylor led Australia to a 1-0 victory in a three-Test series the last time they toured Pakistan. Since then Pakistan have hosted Australia four times at neutral venues in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.
“Cricket Australia is excited about the prospect of touring Pakistan next year for what will be a highly anticipated series in a country so incredibly passionate about the game and their national team,” said Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley, according to the PCB statement.
“The safety and welfare of our players and staff remains our number one priority and we will continue to work with the PCB and relevant agencies to ensure that appropriate and sufficient arrangements are put in place for the tour.”
Cricket Australia’s delegation will visit Pakistan to meet with PCB officials and Pakistani authorities to discuss and finalise matters relating to team operations, logistics, security and Covid-19 protocols, the PCB statement added.
Pakistan had gradually returned to the cricket map as hosts of international matches following a six-year hiatus in the wake of attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.
Sri Lanka were the first team to return for a Test series in December 2019, and were followed by Bangladesh and South Africa.
But the cancellations of scheduled tours by New Zealand and England seemed to have damaged that revival.
Australia’s decision came after the West Indies announced last week they will tour Pakistan in December for three Twenty20s and three ODIs and now there seems a possibility of England rescheduling their tour after Harrision’s one-day visit.
“ECB chief executive Tom Harrison would reach Lahore in the morning before meeting PCB chairman Ramiz Raja in the afternoon,” a PCB spokesperson told Dawn. “He will fly off the United Arab Emirates later in the evening to attend ICC meetings there.”
England are due to play a Test series In Pakistan in 2022 and they were due to arrive in Pakistan for four days in October to play two Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi.
Two women’s T20 matches were scheduled on the same days as double-headers, with three women’s One-day Internationals to follow in the same city and their withdrawal caused bitter reaction in Pakistan.
The ECB were also severely criticised back home and later saw chairman Ian Watmore announce his resignation.
Australia series schedule:
March 3-7: First Test (Karachi).
March 12-16: Second Test (Rawalpindi).
March 21-25: Third Test (Lahore).
March 29: First One-day International (Lahore).
March 31: Second One-day International (Lahore).
April 2: Third One-day International (Lahore).
April 5: One-off T20 International (Lahore).
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2021