THE first major cricketing nation to come to Pakistan for a full series since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore is back in the country. And once again at a time when Pakistan needs to show the world that it is a safe venue for international cricket. West Indies last toured Pakistan in 2018, playing a three-match Twenty20 International series. They followed Zimbabwe — who visited in 2015 — and Sri Lanka — who played a lone Twenty20 in Lahore in October 2017 — in helping revive international cricket in Pakistan. This time, West Indies are the first team to tour Pakistan since New Zealand abandoned their scheduled series due to security concerns earlier this year and England followed suit by calling off their two-match T20 series, saying it would take a toll on its players’ mental health. All that happened before Pakistan proved at the Twenty20 World Cup that it remains one of the best teams in the game with a barnstorming run to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Australia. England have since agreed to compensate Pakistan’s losses by playing two additional T20s when they tour next year in their first series here since 2005. Australia are scheduled to tour before them in March for their first series here since 1998.
It’s the West Indies series, though, which will reassure other cricketing nations about Pakistan’s security situation. During the six matches, Australia’s security consultants will be assessing the arrangements made by Pakistan. Like in 2018, though, West Indies are shorn of some of their top players who have opted out due to personal reasons. Their captain, Kieron Pollard, was ruled out due to injury. Pakistan, therefore, start the series as favourites. Babar Azam’s men followed up their World Cup performance with a 3-0 sweep of hosts Bangladesh in their T20 series last month. While anything other than a victory in both series for Pakistan would be a surprise, cricket fans have more reasons to rejoice: international cricket is back again in Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2021