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International cricket may return to Pakistan amidst Imran Khan’s barbs

Kolkata: There’s some good news for Pakistani cricket fans. After the successful hosting of the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore on Sunday, the International Cricket Conference (ICC) is mulling over the option of sending a World XI to play a four-match-T20 series in September, according to The Express Tribune. The matches if finalised, will be held on September 22, 23, 28 and 29 in Pakistan. The PSL, 2017 was won by the Peshawar Zalmi defeating the Quetta Gladiators.

According to former Pakistan skipper Ramiz Raza, “It was the successful organisation of the PSL final which encouraged the ICC to decide to send their World XI team to Pakistan. They were monitoring the PSL final in Lahore and treated it as a case study to determine if international players can be brought to Pakistan to participate in cricket matches.”

Meanwhile cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan who had earlier termed the PCB’s decision to host the final of the second edition of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore as an example of “madness” citing security reasons, stirred a controversy by calling the foreign players playing in the final as “phateechar” in a video. He also went on to make derogatory and offensive statements about these players.

In an internal meeting of the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the former Pakistani skipper, who also heads the party, said, “I don’t even know the name of any of these so-called foreign players. It seems they just picked up players from wherever. Picked some from Africa and called them foreign players.” Khan was however heavily criticised on social media after the video went viral as many called him “racist” and “vile.”

Serious cricket made its comeback in Pakistan after quite a long time and this wasn’t the way anyone would have expected a legend like Khan to react to the development. The 1992 World Cup winning captain, for that matter wasn’t also present to attend the final in Lahore, for hidden political reasons.

If Pakistan cricket is looking forward to resurrect cricket at home, such comments made by one of the country’s greats would do more harm than good. Now on a positive note, the ICC if at all it decides to send a World XI side to Pakistan for the Independence Cup, would make a positive move that would do good to cricket in Pakistan which is on its way to revival.

Giles Clarke, the head of ICC’s Pakistan task force stressed on the fact that Pakistan could not go on playing their home matches on foreign soil (the United Arab Emirates). He said, “The desire is to give cricket-starved Pakistani supporters the chance to see some of the world’s finest players in live action.”

“The world of cricket needs to help Pakistan, who cannot continue to play their home fixtures overseas” added Clarke. “The national teams need far more cricket played in familiar terrain. Furthermore, the terrorists cannot win and cricket must not give up on Pakistan,” he said.

With such a big news, cricket fans in Pakistan are surely to be happy. Najam Sethi, the author of the PSL’s success story in Pakistan was over the moon after this development as many had doubted the success of the final match in Lahore. He, however took to Twitter to express his happiness saying, “Ab Bolo! PSL Lahore has opened the door to return of international cricket. ICC 11 will play four t20 matches in Lahore in Sept. Hooray!”

Ever since that infamous terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, the ICC had shut the doors on Pakistan. But the PSL final was a step, a first of its kind which seemed to have paved the way for regular international cricket to return to Pakistan.

Khan should shed his political inhibitions and look at the future of Pakistan cricket. If at all, international cricket is back in Pakistan, it will give a big fillip to players, administrators and fans on their soil.

(With inputs from The Express Tribune)