England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Edgbaston August 2, 2016

Misbah laments Pakistan's continuing exile

England will play their 500th Test on home soil this week. Unsurprisingly they are the first nation to reach that milestone. Yet, the fact they do so against Pakistan, a team virtually homeless since 2009, makes for a striking contrast.

Pakistan have played 151 Tests in their country but none since the Lahore Test in 2009, which was abandoned after the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus. Their nomadic lifestyle since has been much-storied not least earlier in this series after their stunning victory at Lord's.

Misbah-ul-Haq rarely gives much away the day before a Test. When asked if he knew his team for Edgbaston he said "we are sure, no doubts" but refused to elaborate further. "Keep them guessing," he said with a grin.

Yet when a question came about England's milestone match at home and the stark difference in Pakistan's situation he became very animated, almost impassioned as he spoke about the risks to cricket in his homeland.

He fears for the next generation, with children being drawn away from the sport. That, of course, is not only a situation for Pakistan, but a vast number of countries trying to keep the young active. However, Pakistan has the added difficulty of so much international cricket being lost to the country. The players can be watched on television, but creating "heroes", as Misbah termed it, is so much more difficult with the continual distance.

"The interest of the youth is really losing out to other sports. It's one area where you can say we are really unlucky and we want international cricket back in Pakistan, just to help our youngsters and just to help cricket in Pakistan," he said.

"If you are not watching the heroes and the top stars in the world in the grounds and you are not meeting them… That could be a big attraction for them to play cricket. Without that, it's really difficult for the Pakistan Cricket Board and it can really hurt them financially also."

From a cricket point of view, there is talk of trying to bring the PSL finals to Pakistan and, as so often, Misbah was asked about the chances of touring sides returning. Sadly, that still feels a long way off for most opposition despite continual hopeful talk of tours resuming and Zimbabwe going for their limited-overs trip last year.

The knock-on effect of the challenge of engaging younger generations is encouraging them to play the game. This current Pakistan team are doing their best to be a side to inspire, but Misbah is concerned about the game's breeding ground.

"It can really hurt your overall development as a cricketing nation. Your youth can really be inspired if you are playing internationally back at home," Misbah said. "Obviously, you can build more infrastructure and people read more about cricket.

"At school level, club level, the activity has just dropped a little bit because of that. You can see wherever the World Cups are, or international events, the whole scenario changes, it's like a fever in that country for that sport. That's what we have been really missing.

"We need more sports atmosphere in Pakistan. We must understand that even in our schools, our colleges and our homes, how important sports is for a kid."

It was telling, also, that Misbah has been so enthused by the crowds that have watched this series. Even though Old Trafford was not a sellout, and the first two days at Edgbaston are not full, it is still a world away from the empty, rattling stadiums that often greet them in the UAE.

"It's always good to play in an atmosphere like that," he said. "This is why you play cricket or any sport, that people are there to enjoy and cheer. Sometimes that really helps you to perform and show your skills to everyone.

"As for the previous two Test matches, I've really enjoyed the atmosphere. It's really good to play Test cricket here. We are not used to that, we normally have such huge crowds in the one-day and T20 games but not Tests. That's really good to have in Test cricket."

One day, hopefully, fans in Pakistan will have a chance to cheer their team at home on a regular basis. Right now, all this side can do is try to inspire from afar by bouncing back from their heavy Old Trafford defeat and reprise the scenes of Lord's.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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