Johannesburg – The Pakistani team is crying out for a return of Test cricket to the country.
Team manager Naveed Cheema and captain Misbah-ul-Haq, upon arriving in South Africa on Monday for a Test series against the Proteas, voiced their yearning for hosting Test cricket in Pakistan for the first time in four years.
Pakistan last hosted a Test series in 2009 against Sri Lanka when armed militants attacked the visiting team bus in Lahore, killing eight locals and six players. Since then, no international teams have travelled to Pakistan to play Test matches.
“It is a dilemma in Pakistan that we are not getting international cricket,” Cheema said.
“Our people have a passion for cricket and unfortunately on security concerns it's not happening. There is a difference between perception and reality.”
Cheema said the safety concerns were no longer warranted and the country was as safe as any other.
“International experience our team should get at home they are not getting,” he said.
“People don't come over there on the pretext of security concerns. They probably say Pakistan is not safe to go over there.
“Our guys over there play domestic cricket, and you just cannot imagine the passion and liking for cricket in the subcontinent. Whenever we have an international match there the stadiums are full.”
Misbah, meanwhile, pointed out Pakistan were capable of hosting big tournaments after the domestic T20 Cup was held there recently.
“I think the biggest evidence is that we are having bigger tournaments there and nothing is happening,” Misbah said.
“International players are playing there (in Pakistan) in those teams. In two matches some of the South African players were there, some of the West Indians. So those matches in Karachi were safe.”
Pakistan, ranked fourth in the ICC Test rankings, could achieve more if they played more matches at home, said Misbah.
“As a team it's very difficult when you're not playing on a regular basis,” he said.
“We really have to work hard to just get into that sort of groove.”
He said the team had to adjust the way they prepared for Test series as there were no opportunities on home soil.
“You miss a lot of cricket and playing only five, six Tests a year,” Misbah said. “Normally teams are playing 15 to 16 Tests a year. It really has a big effect on your team.”
Misbah said there were no incidents in the T20 tournaments, which indicated top Test cricket could return without any concerns.
“During the T20 tournament in Pakistan, in every match the stadiums were full we played there and there was no concern,” he said.
“It's now time to just think about that. Pakistan is such a big cricketing nation and it has its name in international cricket.
“The world really needs to think about that. Just bring cricket back there.” – Sapa