'We bid for 2018 ICC event to send a strong message'
One of the lesser-noticed concessions Pakistan emerged with from the ICC's recently-concluded annual conference in Hong Kong was the board's bid to host an ICC event in 2018. The ICC acknowledged the request but didn't give any assurances and as it stands currently, there are no details about what that event might be, other than that there is scheduled to be one that year.
For a board that hasn't seen any top-grade international cricket in their country for over two years and is unlikely to for some time yet, just putting in a bid and having it acknowledged is a minor triumph.
"When discussions began in Hong Kong, we saw an event in 2018 and saw it wasn't allocated to anyone so we decided to bid for it," Subhan Ahmed, the board's chief operating officer, told ESPNcricinfo. "We need to be seen to be doing something about it and getting the ICC press release to acknowledge it sends a strong signal that we are trying to bring cricket back here."
Though the event isn't specified, it could well be the World Twenty20, now a biennial ICC event and scheduled to be held in 2012 and 2014. The process of allocating events beyond 2015 - till when they are currently allocated - will begin later this year or early next year and is likely to be finalised by 2013 or 2014; for events between 2007 and 2015, for example, the allocations were finalised by April 2006. Only after the allocation process is over will it be clearer what ICC event falls in 2018.
The prospect thus remains a distant one and dependent entirely on Pakistan's security situation at the time. But the other motivation behind the bid was the fact that Pakistan is the only Full Member country that hasn't staged - or is scheduled to stage - an ICC event since 1996, when it co-hosted the World Cup with India and Sri Lanka. The idea for the bid was discussed with the ICC's Pakistan Task Team (PTT) beforehand and this point registered with them as well.
"This is the main point we made at the meeting, that being a Full Member and an established member of the ICC, Pakistan was the only country that hadn't (hosted an ICC event) since 1996. England, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, West Indies, South Africa have all done so, Australia and New Zealand will do in 2015 (the 50-over World Cup) and we haven't," Ahmed said. "By the time 2018 comes around, we will have gone 22 years without hosting a major tournament which isn't right."
The 2000s have been blighted for the PCB by security concerns. After 9/11 and the US war in neighbouring Afghanistan, teams refused to tour Pakistan; West Indies and Australia played their series in the UAE in the early parts of the decade. Teams started visiting again soon enough, but after growing security problems in 2007-08, touring became an issue again. The 2008 Champions Trophy was due to be held in Pakistan but was scrapped and held a year later in 2009 in South Africa after teams refused to travel. After the terror attacks on the Sri Lanka team in March 2009 in Lahore, teams stopped touring altogether and Pakistan lost its right to co-host the 2011 World Cup.
In just under ten years - since September 2001 - Pakistan have played only 25 Tests at home, comfortably the lowest among the current Test-playing countries. And of all the Full Members, Pakistan has hosted the least number of ODIs in that time, even fewer than Zimbabwe.
Security remains a concern for now and the forseeable future. "Initially members were reluctant because of the security aspect and even the ICC was," Ahmed said. "But we said that just as it happened with the 2008 Champions Trophy - and happens with all ICC events - there is a thorough security assessment well before the event and if there is a problem it can be moved. But for us, it's important to send a strong message out there and the members and the ICC understood this."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo