Yorkshire offer Pakistan 'second home'
Yorkshire's chief executive, Stewart Regan, has welcomed the prospect of Pakistan taking on Australia in England next summer, and believes that if Headingley was able to secure one of the two Tests that have been proposed in the PCB's draft itinerary, the match would attract far more interest than the England Test against Bangladesh that is currently on Yorkshire's agenda for 2010.
The Bangladesh tour, which has yet to be confirmed by the ECB, is scheduled to take place in May and June next summer. But having witnessed the difficulty that Durham has faced this week in attracting a crowd to the ongoing Test between England and West Indies, Regan is not optimistic about the level of interest for such a low-key series.
"As with football and rugby, it all depends on the quality of the opposition," Regan told Cricinfo. "If you are hosting the Ashes, as we are fortunate enough to be doing this summer, then you'll never have any problems filling games, but if it is a lesser opponent - and I mean no disrespect to Bangladesh - then you are going to have difficulty in selling out.
"But Pakistan against Australia would be very special," he added. "They are two of the leading cricket nations around the world, and we believe that of all of the venues in England, we could probably sell that match out or come very close to it, because of the huge level of interest in Yorkshire."
As a cricket club, Yorkshire was infamously slow to embrace their Asian community, but they have made up for that in recent years, with the emergence of the young legspinner and England prospect, Adil Rashid, a testament to their new-found attitude.
"In the last two seasons we've strengthened our relations with the Pakistani community enormously," said Regan. "We had Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan here as overseas players in 2007, while Bradford - and West Yorkshire generally - has the second-largest Pakistani population outside of London. It would be a great honour to stage a Pakistan Test in the north of England. Of all the places to stage such a series, Yorkshire would be top of the list."
The Pakistan team has been in exile ever since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus during the Lahore Test in March, which claimed the lives of eight security personnel. The team recently concluded an ODI series against Australia in Dubai, but the prospect of playing in a traditional cricket-loving nation such as England is of great interest to the PCB. "I think England is an almost perfect option," Ehsan Mani, the former ICC president and PCB advisor, told Cricinfo.
Regan agrees. "We put our hat in the ring about six months ago, given the troubles in Mumbai and Lahore," he said. "If there is the opportunity to stage a neutral Test, then Headingley we feel would be a great venue because of the huge Asian demographic and the passionate cricket following in Yorkshire. We are the biggest county in the country, and we feel we could put on a great event, and make the Pakistan players feel that this is their second home.
"When we've hosted Pakistan matches in the past, we've seen a huge level of support for the team, with Pakistan flags all over the county," he added. "Many second and even third-generation Pakistanis support the team even though they live in England. This prospect is unique and very exciting."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo