Zimbabwe tour 'a big joy' - Misbah
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has described the return of international cricket to the country after six years of isolation as 'a big joy'. Zimbabwe is all set to become the first Full-Member nation to tour Pakistan since March 2009, when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore rendering the country untenable as an international cricket venue due to security concerns.
Zimbabwe will arrive in Lahore on May 19 for three ODIs and two T20s. The T20s are scheduled to be played on May 22 and 24, and the ODIs on May 26, 29 and 31 before Zimbabwe fly back on June 1.
"I am really happy about that," Misbah told ESPNcricinfo. "At least something is happening for which people and players had been waiting for. It's a big joy for all of Pakistan cricket fans, players and for the PCB officials."
Misbah, who has been Pakistan's Test captain since 2010, was part of the Pakistan squad when gunmen had ambushed the Sri Lankan team on its way to the Gaddafi stadium on March 3, 2009. Several players suffered injuries, while security personnel and civilians were killed, after which the tour was called off.
Misbah said that the attack on the Sri Lankan team was the one thing he wanted to 'forget' from his cricketing life. "That one early morning that happened was really frustrating and you could say it was very disappointing for Pakistan as after that it had a big effect on Pakistan cricket. When we saw the Sri Lankan players and the way it happened to them it was painful," Misbah said. "That's the one thing in my whole life I would want to forget in my cricketing career because the way Pakistan cricket suffered."
In the aftermath of the Lahore incident, Pakistan was stripped of its right to host the 2011 World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. The situation also meant that Pakistan had to play their home matches at off-shore venues, primarily the UAE, as the ICC and the other Full Members voiced concerns over security.
Misbah said that the lack of home games in Pakistan had hurt the cricketing infrastructure in the country besides resulting in homesickness among players and loss of interest among fans.
"You were missing home series in Pakistan and you not playing in front of the home crowd and on the ground where you have played most of the cricket throughout your life," he said."You were forced to play outside Pakistan in the UAE, which really hurt Pakistan cricketers because you are not getting the crowd and the kind of feeling that you have playing at home. You get homesickness, as you have to have cricket among your own people in your own grounds.
"Without international cricket in the country, the audience loses the interest because there is no competition going on. Certainly it also hurts the infrastructure, your grounds are not there up to that standards. Eventually it is disturbing for Pakistan cricket and especially for Pakistan Cricket Board who just can't carry on like that."
The development of cricket in Pakistan has also suffered as no team is ready to tour the country. The PCB has had a budget deficit for years which has affected the maintenance of stadiums. Around two dozen players made their international debut for Pakistan during this isolation period, but are yet to play an international game in their own country.
"It has not been good because as a player you always want to play in front of crowd as it give you more pleasure and more chance to express yourself in front of your own people in your own ground which is not happening for Pakistani cricketers," Misbah said.
With Zimbabwe Cricket confirming the Pakistan tour despite several Zimbabwe players expressing concerns over the 10-day tour, the six-year isolation is all set to come to an end.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson