LAHORE: The Champions Trophy hangover is finally dying down after over a month of celebrations. The winless World Cup campaign for the women’s team has meant that we have also spent a lot of counter-productive energy on that front. So what next for Pakistan cricket?
Pakistan’s next full-time international assignment would be against Sri Lanka in October/November this year. It remains to be seen whether the tour goes ahead in the Emirates, or if the Lankans would agree to visiting Pakistan. But there is one international side that is definitely touring Pakistan, before the team takes on Sri Lanka.
An ICC World XI is scheduled to play a series in Lahore between September 12-19. As soon as the tour was confirmed speculations have been rife as to who exactly will be a part of this World XI.
For, the profile of the participants will determine how many steps Pakistan cricket would take towards normal resumption of international tours in the country. What definitely has helped boost the prospect has been the successful two-legged tour of Ronaldinho and Friends who played seven-a-side exhibition matches in Karachi and Lahore earlier this month.
“Andy Flower will be the coach of the touring World XI side,” PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan said in a TV interview. He added that he had “heard that Hashim Amla, Michael Clarke, along with New Zealander Luke Ronchi and Australian Tim Paine, are going to be part of the team”.
Notwithstanding the fact that the board chairmen fueling speculations himself by sharing what he ‘had heard’ at a time when negotiations are obviously still ongoing – clearly, few would argue against Shaharyar Khan’s decision to step down as the chairman – what he has inadvertently done is hype up expectations, with the names that he has put forward.
However, following the PCB chairman’s statement Michael Clarke told the official website of Cricket Australia that the reports of him being a part of the ICC World XI was “news to me”.
Clarke and Amla are two of the biggest batsmen two have played the game since the turn of the century – the latter even more valuable since he’s still playing international cricket. While Clarke is the latest skipper to have won the ODI World Cup, in 2015, and has over 8,000 runs in ODI cricket to his name, Amla is currently in the top 10 lists of both Test and ODI batsmen.
Ronchi, who has represented both New Zealand and Australia, has only recently resigned as well, while Paine is a renowned name in the T20 circuits as well.
To just casually throw in their names, when nothing is finalised can damage the actual event, should this turn out to be a case of false hype. Clarke’s name has also been floated around as the coach for the latest Pakistan Super League franchise Multan Sultans.
There have been reports recently as well that the PCB is trying to reschedule the tour so that the maximum number of international stars can be incorporated.
With Monday’s blast near Arfa Karim Technology Park already adding to the uncertainty surrounding the tour, the fact that the board officials themselves are a part of the rumour mill doesn’t help Pakistan’s cause at all.
With a little over a month to go till the tour is supposed to go head, PCB needs to ensure impeccable planning such that not only are there foolproof security arrangements, but that all negotiations remain behind the scenes and only the final updates are shared with the media.
A lot is resting on this tour in terms of international cricket’s return to Pakistan. The strides taken by Zimbabwe’s tour in 2015 and then the PSL final this year, need to be furthered with the ICC World XI tour.