Pakistan 'ready' to host international cricket
Pakistan is 'ready' for the return of international cricket to the country, after Bangladesh confirmed they would tour for a short limited-overs series at the end of this month. Bangladesh will be the first Full Member of the ICC to tour Pakistan since March 2009.
The teams will play two matches, an ODI and a T20, both at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The ODI is scheduled for April 29 and the T20 for April 30
"We are ready to host them," Intikhab Alam, PCB's director for international operations told ESPNcricinfo. "We have world-class stadiums that are always ready to host cricket all year long. Everything is in place so there is no difficulty for us to host them at short notice."
There's been no international cricket in Pakistan since March 2009, after terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus and a van carrying ICC officials to Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, on what would have been the third day of the second Test of that tour. Some members of the Sri Lanka contingent and reserve umpire Ahsan Raza sustained injuries, and six security personnel and two civilians were killed.
Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi said the security situation in the country had improved over the last three years.
"It's a major breakthrough and I am excited to see Bangladesh touring Pakistan," Afridi told ESPNcricinfo. "It is a much-needed development. Not only will it revive international cricket here, the people in the country will also be entertained.
"Obviously the incident in Lahore (terror attack) was unfortunate but Pakistan has learnt its lessons. I understand the security concerns are up on their minds but things have improved and everything will go well. I have always believed that cricket is a game which keeps a relationship cordial between two countries. All countries should support Pakistan in a time of difficulty."
The PCB, under the chairman Zaka Ashraf, has been keen to revive international cricket in Pakistan, using all its resources and engaging the government to provide full-fledged security to visiting teams. Pakistan have been playing their "home series" in off-shore venues like UAE, New Zealand and England. There's also a plan to "host" Australia in Sri Lanka later this year.
Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner, who turned down a county offer to remain home with his family, welcomed the fact that the team will not have to travel outside the country to play this series.
"Playing our home series in Pakistan is always helpful," Ajmal said. "Though we have been playing in similar conditions in UAE, there are so many factors involved that give you the advantage. The news about Bangladesh touring Pakistan is good for players and the country."
Pakistan's politicians also supported the development. The foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said: "PCB's efforts have finally borne fruit and Bangladesh team's visit will help bring international cricket back to Pakistan and will motivate more teams to come to our country."
The interior minister, Rehman Malik, said the best security would be in place. "We will leave no stone unturned and put in place the best possible security for the Bangladesh team as per our promise and make this tour an exemplary one so that other teams also tour us."
Rashid Latif, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, stressed the need for the "best arrangements". "We must not leave any loopholes in security because we cannot afford a minor mistake or any lapse in arrangements."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent