Islamabad, April 07 (INP) – Pakistan’s cricket chiefs hope the country can host a full series by 2020, after a successful tour by the West Indies sparked hopes of an international revival.
The three-match series against the World Twenty20 champions, staged in the once militancy-wracked port city of Karachi, was accompanied by a wave of optimism, with enthusiastic fans braving heavy security checks to express their gratitude to the West Indies for the visit which ended Tuesday.
Last month Karachi also hosted the final of the popular Pakistan Super League, the biggest cricket event in the city since a 2009 attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in Lahore drove international cricket from the country.
Pakistan was forced to host its international fixtures in the United Arab Emirates. But with security dramatically improving in the last three years, the Pakistan Cricket Board has been taking “gradual steps” to bring them back, PCB chairman Najam Sethi said.
“We will host more PSL matches next year and by that time almost all the top international players from top cricketing nations will have played in Pakistan,” he predicted.
“Then we can convince their boards to send national teams for a full series to Pakistan in 2020.”
His confidence is striking, coming after so many false starts.
Sri Lanka had agreed to return in 2011, but an attack on a Karachi naval base derailed that hope. The PCB then convinced Ireland to tour in 2014, only to have the trip cancelled after militants attacked the Karachi airport.
Bangladesh also declined tours not once but twice out of unspecified security concerns, after initially agreeing in 2012.
But in 2015 the sound of the Pakistani national anthem rang out at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium once more as minnows Zimbabwe became the first international team to return.
Unprecedented security was put in place with some 30,000 policemen and military personnel on guard as spectators braved heat and security checkpoints to attend the first international match in the country in six years.