PCB calls for revival of international cricket in Pakistan
On the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, the PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf has called on the world to stand with Pakistan and help revive international cricket in the country. "It was the tragic episode in the history of Pakistan cricket," Ashraf, who is also a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party's central executive committee, told ESPNcricinfo. "We have suffered a lot in fighting against terrorism - a war that is the entire world's and Pakistan is fighting as a front-line state. The whole world should stand with us in helping revive international cricket."
On March 3, 2009, the Sri Lanka team was on its way to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day of the second Test against Pakistan, when gunmen opened fire and threw grenades at the bus, killing eight people at Liberty roundabout, one-and-a-half kilometres away from the stadium. The match was abandoned, Sri Lanka left the country the same day, Pakistan was stripped of its right to host the 2011 World Cup and there has been no international cricket in the country since. For the last four years, Pakistan have been playing their 'home' series mostly in the UAE.
Youth development in Pakistan cricket is on hold as no team, even at the youth level, is ready to tour. The PCB has suffered a budget deficit for years, stadiums are getting rusty, fans have been deprived. Around two dozen players made their international debut for Pakistan in this period, but are yet to play an international game in their own country.
The PCB is still haunted by the impact of the incident and doesn't like to be reminded of what happened. The board is now waiting for a change in the political landscape in the country, hoping it will lead to greater stability.
The PCB had tried to win back the confidence of players by organising the lucrative Twenty20 league, offering top players from around the world a chance to earn over $100,000 tax-free in 10 days. But the plan was hit by logistical arrangements and the board had to postpone it indefinitely. The PCB also tried hard to negotiate with the Bangladesh Cricket Board to commit to a tour of Pakistan but the series never happened, with Bangladesh withdrawing after committing twice. West Indies, in recent times, have refused to send their A team to Pakistan, proposing instead to play in the UAE.
The PCB, in the meantime, is focusing on building cricket infrastructure in Pakistan, a chaotic process in a time of isolation. A new stadium, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Cricket Stadium at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Naudero, Sindh, was completed last year; another one has been sanctioned in the capital Islamabad with a lodging facility. Domestic cricket has been revamped, with the introduction of an additional Twenty20 national championship between eight top teams around the country to keep the stadiums active.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent