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April 2, 2012
At a time when Pakistan is a no-go area for major international cricket, a team of university students, graduates and MCC playing members from the UK has arrived in Lahore for a series of charity matches.
Pakistan has been off limits for international cricket since an armed terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus during a Test match in Lahore in March 2009.
Passion for cricket remains undimmed, though. A series of domestic T20 games staged in Rawalpindi recently drew packed houses of around 20,000, with a further 15,000 gathered outside in the hope of catching a glimpse of the action.
The PCB are desperate to bring international cricket back to the country. They have invited Bangladesh to play a limited-over series later this month, but it remains unclear whether the tour will go ahead. In the meantime, the PCB hope that by staging matches against international teams - even international teams as low-key as the current visitors loosely termed the 'British Universities' - that they will show that there is nothing to fear in touring Pakistan.
"Everything so far looks very good," Kemal Alam, captain of the touring party said. "When you see things from outside it's a completely different picture from what you see in the media. A lot of stuff is distorted and until you can actually come to a country and see it for yourself with your own eyes, you can never get a good picture of what's going on.
"This is the second tour that we have brought here in the last seven years from the British Universities and we are here as a charity team and also a goodwill gesture between Britain and Pakistan.
"Pakistan really needs cricket. Cricket is the most important thing in the country and it keeps everyone going. It's almost like taking the oxygen out of the country when you don't have international cricket."
The tourists will play one game 25-overs a side match against Aitchison College followed by two 50-over matches against a Pakistan under-19 side at the Gaddafi Stadium.
"We are trying our level best try to convince people - the national teams abroad - that this place is safe," Intikhab Alam, the PCB's director of international cricket, told Intikhab the tourists. "I'm sure when you play here and you meet the people, that you will get the idea that things are not that bad."
It also emerged last week that the PCB are in talks with Kent-based club Lashings about a prospective tour. Since the 2009 attack Afghanistan, who played against the Pakistan A side, and Hong Kong, who had a training camp ahead of the World T20 qualifiers in the UAE, are the only international sides to visit Pakistan.
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