Pakistan has been unable to host any international cricket matches since 2009, when the bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team was attacked by gunmen in Lahore. Seven Sri Lankan players were injured in the attack, and six policemen lost their lives in the line of duty.
Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan includes two T20 matches and three ODI matches. The two teams will first lock horns this Friday, starting off with a game of T20. The 15-man squad was announced earlier this week. Some much-needed fresh blood has been injected into the team for the T20 matches in the form of all-rounders Imad Wasim and Nauman Anwar. With the departure of Misbah-ul-Haq, selectors have prudently called back a few veterans as well. Fast bowler Mohammad Sami and all-rounder Shoaib Malik have been re-introduced, but spinner Saeed Ajmal hasn’t been able to break into the squad. While the addition of new and old faces is making heads turn, it is the inclusion of Umar Akmal that has been the centre of controversy, as he was dropped from the recent tour of Bangladesh due to his poor performance in the ICC World Cup 2015.
Controversy and Pakistani cricket have always maintained a close relationship, from suspected conspiracies by the ‘Big Three’ (Australia, India and England) to sideline Pakistan, to throwing bones instead of displaying true cricketing action. The ICC has refused to send any match officials to Pakistan for Zimbabwe’s tour due to security concerns, despite satisfaction from the guests.
It appears as if the PCB took the ICC’s rejection to heart. Media channels were given full access to document and broadcast live, as if mocking the ICC and the Big Three was planned all along. Meanwhile, stringent measures to secure safety involve airborne and ground forces. Special Forces designated on the routes for the Zimbabwe Cricket team are already patrolling near the Qaddafi Stadium.
In the advent of the unfortunate 2009 attack, Pakistan has been coerced into playing all “home series” at foreign grounds. In the last six years, Dubai was a second home for the Pakistani Cricket team. Dubai has always welcomed Pakistani cricket, especially since a considerable proportion of its population consists of Pakistanis.
Zimbabwe’s visit to Pakistan is certainly a positive step, which will test the waters for the future of international cricket in the country. The ship that was once drowning in a storm of controversy and conspiracy is finally entering calmer seas.
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