Pakistan faces another era of isolation

Deserted: Police Elite Force personnel walk in an enclosure at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium after the New Zealand team pulled out of the tour.  

Pakistan cricket began confronting its worst fear on Saturday, with the national side staring at another era of isolation from hosting international matches after New Zealand abandoned its tour, citing a security threat.

The All Blacks called off their first Pakistan series in 18 years with Wellington’s backing on Friday just before the first ODI was due to start in Rawalpindi.

The decision has left cricket-crazy Pakistan reeling, with the nation still recovering from the 2009 militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore that wounded six players.

Already struggling to convince foreign teams to tour, Pakistan was forced to play home matches at neutral venues — primarily in the UAE — following the assault.

The decision left a generation of cricket fans growing up having never attended a live game.

Need to work overtime

Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former international cricketing hero, and the Pakistan Cricket Board will now have to work overtime to avoid another period of exile.

“With the administration they now have in place at the PCB and how closely linked to the PM it is, there’ll be a real push to ensure they have to play as little as possible in a neutral venue,” cricket writer Osman Samiuddin said.

The first task will be to convince England, which will decide on Sunday whether to send its men’s and women’s teams for a scheduled tour to Pakistan next month.

Those tours are to be followed by a series against the West Indies in December and Australia’s first visit since 1998 in February next year.

“England are now likely not to tour. Australia... will also probably not come. So that will be a hit,” Samiuddin said.

“And for fans too, they’ve only just started getting used to going to big games again so for the prospect of that being taken away, it’s going to hurt.”

Lot of pressure

The newly elected chairman of the PCB Ramiz Raja admitted Saturday that Pakistani cricket was facing “a lot of pressure”, though not for the first time — and that the nation was resilient.

“Your pain and my pain is the same, it’s a shared pain. Whatever happened was not good for Pakistan cricket,” he said.

The PCB bled $200 million in losses during the country’s cricket exile.

Now, alongside the upcoming tours, its bids to host six international events — including the World Cup and Champion’s Trophy between 2024-31 — could also be in jeopardy.

Former players say keeping international cricket in Pakistan is the key priority.

“All cricketers are with the PCB and we have to find ways to avoid further isolation, for the sake of our next generations,” former captain Rashid Latif said.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 12:15:54 PM |

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