Three-act affirmative

Despite the unusual scheduling, Bangladesh touring Pakistan is a major triumph, writes K Shahid

Three-act affirmative
Over the past five years, this space has dedicated its fair share to off-field matters related to Pakistan cricket, given the long and protracted process that the revival of international cricket in the country has been. However, few have been as dramatic as the past three weeks of ‘will they, won’t they’ surrounding Bangladesh’s tour of Pakistan.

As it turned out, a lot of it was blown out of proportion as well, with much of the deadlock over the tour centering around the respective commitments of the two teams more so than any other tussles. Given that Bangladesh had requested for a bifurcated tour – just like Sri Lanka over the past three months – it was the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February-March that had made scheduling logistically more complicated.

Hence, all those who were quick to jump the gun and accuse the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) of toeing the line of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), or in some instances had adopted a disrespectful tone with regards to the soon-to-be visitors, need self-reflection.

Pakistan set for T20I assignment next week

While this space has also maintained that given the progress over the past five years, Pakistan should henceforth play all its cricket at home, it is important for those representing Pakistan cricket – or claiming to be its well-wishers – to maintain a humble position, given the gravity of what had transpired to take cricket away from the country.

In that regard, the matter appears to have played out amicably, despite the unusual itinerary for the visiting team, which will see Bangladesh tour Pakistan for three T20Is, one ODI and two Test matches across three separate visits. What is even more unusual about the three-part tour is that after the first leg consisting entirely of T20Is in Lahore, the second and third legs would see an ODI sandwiched between two Test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
This year’s PSL will be a major breakthrough in highlighting the feasibility for long tours

Even so, what’s the most important is that the tour is going ahead, with all three formats being contested and all matches being played in Pakistan. This needs to be recognized as a triumph, which will add to all the success that Pakistan has achieved in bringing cricket back home over the past five years.

While next week’s space would be dedicated entirely to previewing the three T20I series to be played in Lahore on 24th, 25th and 27th, let us reemphasize what Pakistan’s approach needs to be for future tours.

As already stated, due consideration needs to be given to the fact that it was perfectly understandable for many visiting sides to not tour Pakistan over the previous decade, given the security situation in the country and more critically that it was a cricket team that had been targeted in 2009.

Both ICC Test Championship contests to be played in Pakistan over two different legs

And similarly, Pakistan needs to maintain that not only has the overall security situation improved in the country, but better facilities are now in place for visiting teams. Overall security for cricket tours has significantly enhanced worldwide, with Pakistan actually providing presidential-level arrangements for teams now.

While hopefully the magnitude of the required security in Pakistan would gradually mirror the rest of the world, what also needs to be underlined is that the amount of money being invested in the sport is significantly more than what it used to be. That is reflected in all facets of the sport, including the security arrangements for not just visiting teams but the stadiums in which the matches are played out.

Beefed up security in Lahore during Sri Lanka's tour last year

This year’s PSL being hosted entirely in Pakistan, which will see international athletes staying in the country for over a month this year, will be a major breakthrough in highlighting the feasibility for long tours. Gradually, the requests by visiting teams to divide the tours into smaller legs would decrease.

Trust will be earned slowly and steadily, as has been the case for the past half decade. All those associated with Pakistan cricket need to play their part in what has been increasingly a success story.