Incoming managing director of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Wasim Khan is hopeful that the Australian cricket team can be persuaded to return to Pakistan for the first time in more than 20 years in the early months of 2019.
Australia last played in Pakistan in late 1998. They are scheduled to play five ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE in March, however, Wasim is keen to ensure any perceived security gaps are closed so that Australia can be persuaded to play matches in Pakistan at the start of that series in an attempt to bring regular international cricket back to the country.
“I will ask the question,” Wasim said in an interview. “We will continue to offer them the highest level security and, if they have any concerns, we will act to meet them.”
Wasim said he will also invite an MCC team to tour the country in the coming months and invite county teams to use the excellent academy facility in Lahore as part of their pre-season training plans.
Leicestershire, where Wasim remains chief executive until the end of January, are the obvious candidates. They currently have no pre-season trips planned in 2019, with Wasim accepting that such a visit may have to be sponsored by the PCB.
“It will probably be a process of baby steps,” Wasim continued. “I need to sit down with other boards and ask them: where are the gaps in our plans that worry you? What can we do to assure you? What will it take to get you to come back? I want to hear what concerns they have and find a way of meeting them.
“We have excellent facilities. We have a great passion for the game. If we can get more foreign players coming to Pakistan more often, hopefully we can normalise playing in the country again,” he stated.
Pakistan have been obliged to play the vast majority of their international cricket in the UAE since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team convoy in Lahore in March 2009. While Zimbabwe played some limited-overs games in Lahore in 2015, Sri Lanka returned for a one-off T20I in 2017 and there have also been appearances by a World XI (2017) and West Indies (2018), the return of Australia would mark a significant step in the nation’s rehabilitation as a cricketing venue.
A few PSL matches have also returned to Pakistan over the last couple of years, with a number of foreign players involved. Eight fixtures are due to be staged there, split between Karachi and Lahore, in the 2018 season, which starts in February.