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January 16, 2006
Karachi - and not Lahore - was originally scheduled to host the first Test against India, according to the Pakistan Cricket Board. The first Test at Gaddafi Stadium has been blighted by poor weather conditions, with bad light curtailing play to only 15 overs on the third day and disrupting two hours of the fourth day as well. Additionally, poor weather in the run-up has, according to the PCB's head curator, contributed to the pitch's blandness.
In light of the weather here, Karachi - where conditions are generally clearer and warmer - would have been a better option for the series opener. This, said Saleem Altaf, Director PCB to Cricinfo, was the original intention. "The itinerary was finalised so late. India first wanted to come to Karachi and the first Test was scheduled there in the original itinerary. Then they had a change of heart and said we want a practice game and we will come to Lahore first. Between the practice game and the first Test we didn't have time to get them to Karachi. So we thought if the practice match is in Lahore then the first Test should also be in Lahore. A logistical problem in Karachi meant the practice game couldn't be held there."
The second Test is scheduled for Faisalabad where similar weather is expected to hamper the game. Players including Inzamam-ul-Haq, the captain, and Younis Khan, had raised concerns before the series about hosting Tests in the Punjab in January.
The board, said Altaf, will raise this issue at the ICC meeting in February. "The Chairman has already spoken to Malcolm Speed on the subject of six-day tests. We can argue at the meeting that it is a situation peculiar to Pakistan at this time of the year. Somehow three days have to be added to all three-Test series and the FTP [Future Tours Programme] is so cramped that it may not be that easy."
Test matches in Pakistan have been played in all months apart from June and July and the case against playing in the period from late December to February is strong. But although the PCB has admitted it will rethink seriously about scheduling matches during this time, the FTP poses a problem. "Pakistan is tied to the FTP and it is very cramped - you extend it by a year to be six years and it is still cramped. After this India series the next at home is against the West Indies in November-December 2006. If you don't play them at that time you don't play them at all. Immediately after that series you go to South Africa then come back and then play the World Cup. The schedule is so tight that whatever window of opportunity there is you have to take it."
Pakistan also suffers from a lack of grounds in other parts of the country. Although Hyderabad's Niaz Stadium has hosted Test matches and there is a first-class ground in Quetta as well, problems with accommodation for the touring team precludes their consideration. "We will have to look into this and learn something from this experience with regards to our scheduling for future series. The accommodation just isn't adequate enough in these places," says Altaf.
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