Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ehsan Mani suggested on Monday that the England cricket team should tour and play a series in Pakistan as it was “safe”.
‘We’ve not linked anything with this tour [Pakistan’s ongoing tour to England]. But cricket needs to get together. I’ve been in discussions with England since I became chairman. We’ve had ECB chief executive Tom Harrison out here. He enjoyed his time and we wanted to make him feel comfortable.
‘I’m confident the levels of security will be good. My wife, Frances, drives herself around Islamabad, and I don’t feel the need for any security or guards. No place in the world is risk-free, but all things being equal, I don’t see why England can’t visit Pakistan,’ Mani told UK’s sports website ‘Sportsmail’.
England’s next ‘away’ series against Pakistan — which in 2011-12 and 2015-16 meant the United Arab Emirates (UAE)— is due in 2022-23. But Mani did not show any interest to host them again in UAE. ‘It won’t be the UAE. Either England come to Pakistan, or they don’t tour at all,’ he insisted.
‘One of the issues is the perception of the country. I would encourage people to visit us. People are pleasantly surprised by what they see. When Dave Richardson was chief executive of the ICC, he was out for dinner at midnight and was amazed that the restaurants were all full. It’s relaxed,’ he maintained.
Zimbabwe visited Pakistan in May 2015. A World XI arrived in September 2017, followed by a lone T20 against Sri Lanka. West Indies also arrived in April 2018. Similarly, Sri Lanka returned for Pakistan’s first home Tests, in Rawalpindi and Karachi, in December, 2019. Then came Bangladesh, only for the tour to be interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. An MCC team captained by former Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara also visited Pakistan in February, this year.
Extending the invitation to England, Mani said the benefits for the game in Pakistan would be incalculable.
‘If a team like England came, it would be out of this world. I had teenagers come up to me in tears and say they’ve never seen Test cricket in Pakistan. The England players are well followed in Pakistan, but only ever on TV. To see them in real life would be a fantastic experience for people, and much better than empty stadiums in Dubai or Sharjah,’ Mani added.
He said the PCB forked out $50,000 for each day’s cricket in the UAE. They now need $20-30million to upgrade facilities that have spent a decade lying dormant.
Mani commended the work done by former ECB chairman Giles Clarke in his former role as head of the ICC’s Pakistan task force, whose goal was to return international cricket to the country.—APP