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March 29, 2012
The PCB has claimed that a 'British Universities' team will visit Pakistan to play two limited-overs games in the first week of April.
The Pakistan board, increasingly frustrated in its attempts to return international cricket to the country, said in a press release that "the British Universities team will be arriving in Lahore on April 2", and listed a squad purporting to include several MCC members, including Will Hodson, the son of current MCC president, Phillip Hodson.
Actually the team has no official link to the MCC or the British Universities. While some of the squad may be playing members of the former or have attended organisations linked to the latter, the tour has not been authorised, funded or condoned by either. Indeed, neither organisation knew anything of the tour until contacted by ESPNcricinfo. Those of the touring team that are not already in Pakistan - and some are - will pay their own travel costs. Will Hodson is not taking part.
Pakistan has been a no-go area for major international cricket since an armed terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus during a Test match in Lahore in March 2009 and on Wednesday Phillip Hodson indicated that MCC are more likely to tour Afghanistan than Pakistan. The PCB has invited Bangladesh to play a limited-over series in April, but it remains unclear whether the tour will go ahead.
Perhaps the 'British Universities' episode underlines just how keen the PCB are to re-establish cricketing relations with the rest of the world. On Wednesday it emerged they were in talks with the Kent-based club Lashings, while the manner in which the universities' tour has been marketed suggests that the PCB, keen to add a gloss of gravitas and officialdom to what amounts to an unofficial tour by a group of friends, have embarked on something of a propaganda campaign.
It is a ploy that may have backfired. The MCC and British Universities were underwhelmed with the PCB's press release.
"We were in a bid to bring foreigners to Pakistan," Intikhab Alam, the PCB's director of international cricket, told ESPNcricinfo. "There is a point to prove and it will make an impact that foreigners are coming to Pakistan and playing cricket.
"The law and order situation in the country isn't as bad as it is being portrayed. The team are coming next week and will be well taken care of. Their tour isn't something which was arranged quickly as we were in communication with them from last two months. The British team's tour will help us create a soft image of Pakistan."
Edited by Alan Gardner
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