ECB chairman Giles Clarke has called for Pakistan's return as a host of international matches and said an ICC World XI would tour the country "in due course" since it is still not possible for national teams to visit. Pakistan has not hosted international cricket since the March 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team.
"World cricket must keep giving Pakistan cricket the chance to fund itself and move forward, to do something for the spectator in Pakistan," Clarke wrote in the September issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine. The security challenges are enormous but we cannot allow the terrorists to win. They must lose by an innings - repeatedly.
"So world cricket must go back and play in Pakistan. I do not think it will be possible for individual national teams to tour yet. But with determination and courage an ICC World XI in due course will go and play against Pakistan in her great cities and there will be a marvellous atmosphere."
He said the cricketing world could not afford to forsake a country with such fervent fans and a strong history in the game. "Cricket cannot abandon a nation with such a magnificent history in the game, such wonderful players and such enthusiastic and knowledgeable supporters. It will be an historic moment when international cricket resumes in Pakistan and the first ICC team walks out."
Clarke, who is also chairman of the ICC's Pakistan Task Team, revealed that the inability to host international cricket has resulted in the PCB's income falling from £27 million to £10 million, "a brutal impact that few enterprises could survive; terrorism does not care about its human consequences" he said.
The ECB plans to host more neutral matches featuring Pakistan to help the PCB with its finances. "The ECB intends to assist in staging more Pakistan games here [England] in 2011 and 2012," Clarke said. "The atmosphere, the passionate support and, of course, the tremendous cricket played by the Pakistan team made it a compelling experience. The PCB's economic needs make it imperative."
Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman welcomed the announcement and expressed his gratitude for Clarke's efforts. "It is indeed heartening to note that the cricket fraternity is working on revival of cricket in Pakistan. I am very grateful to Mr. Giles Clarke who is a dear friend of Pakistan, for pursuing our case and working tirelessly in bringing international cricket back to Pakistan," he said.
Ijaz Butt's views were echoed by Pakistan captain Salman Butt, who said it would be a major boost for followers of cricket in his country. "It would be wonderful to have any kind of international cricket going on in Pakistan and if all the players can come and do this favour for Pakistan cricket it would be wonderful.
"People of Pakistan are cricket lovers and they are their heroes not only from Pakistan but from around the world and they love watching them. hey are great admirers of people playing around th world so if that happens it would be great for Pakistan cricket," he said.
England captain Andrew Strauss said the initiative would benefit Pakistan's young players who would needed exposure at the highest level. "The key for them is to get as much cricket as possible. They've been starved over the last couple of years. For some of their younger players, the more experience they get the better they'll be. The international cricketing community has to help out teams like Pakistan who have difficulties at home," he said.
Strauss was open to the possibility of touring Pakistan with the World XI side, provided it were declared safe. England's 2008 tour of India was jeopardised by the Mumbai terrorist attacks, forcing the squad to head back home midway through the ODI series. Strauss was part of the Test side that returned to India to play a rescheduled series. "In the wake of Mumbai bombings, I've always felt it was wrong not to go somewhere if security people said it was safe. They make that judgment with as much information as they can. If they said it was safe to go I'd certainly consider it."
Strauss said that while the cricketing world had a responsibility towards Pakistan due to their situation, it should not extend to the field of play. "With the natural disasters there, some of the difficulties they've had in terms of terrorism over the last couple of years it's very difficult for their players to keep their minds on the job and play at their best. We can have sympathy for them in that sense, but it doesn't come into it on the pitch. It's like getting into a boxing ring: you can't have sympathy for the guy you're competing against," he said.