Why Sri Lanka should help Pakistan



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Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who headed the PCB from 1972 to 1977 played a crucial role in helping Sri Lanka gain Test status. (Files)


by Rex Clementine


Sri Lanka Cricket next week will assess the security situation in Pakistan prior to the national cricket team’s scheduled visit to Lahore. Pakistan has seen little international cricket since the Sri Lankan team bus came under a terrorist attack eight years ago. The International Cricket Council took a step towards bringing cricket back to the country when a World XI team toured Lahore for three T-20 Internationals last month.


If the Sri Lankan game takes place in Pakistan, it will be a massive boost to the Pakistan Cricket Board, who intends to rope in West Indies for three T-20 Internationals in November. That will ensure regular international cricket in the country. The PCB has said that it has ended up with huge bills in hosting their games in neutral venues such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.


More importantly, the current generation of Pakistani cricketers has grown up having played hardly any cricket at home. For example, none of the players of the current Pakistan squad have played any Test cricket in their own backyard. Instead they continue to play their games in UAE in front of empty stadia.


Historically, Pakistan has been Sri Lanka’s greatest ally in cricket. From the 1970s onwards, the Oxford educated Abdul Hafeez Kardar pushed for Sri Lanka’s case for Test status. Kardar played for India before partition making his Test debut in 1946 at Lord’s. Then he went on to become Pakistan’s first Test captain. He headed the PCB from 1972 to 1977 and was a harsh critic of Lord’s control over the game. With the backing of India, he proposed at ICC meetings that Sri Lanka should be granted Test status. The proposal, however, was shot down quite a few times by either England or Australia, who enjoyed the veto power at ICC.


Kardar also initiated the Ali Bhutto Trophy between the Under-19 teams of both countries and then offered scholarships to Sri Lankan coaches to improve their knowledge by working with Pakistani coaches.


Eventually when Sri Lanka were granted Test status, Kardar was no more at the PCB, but people wonder whether the country would have been granted full membership if not for the initiatives taken by him.


The good rapport continued as Pakistan were the first country to invite Sri Lanka for a bilateral series in 1982 after being granted Test status.


More importantly, Pakistan’s support during the 1996 World Cup final was noteworthy. As Arjuna Ranatunga said at the post match media briefing after that epic final against Australia, he felt as if the Sri Lanka team was playing at home in Pakistan. Also prior to the tournament, the solidarity shown by Pakistan players by joining several Indian players and playing the friendly match in Colombo, a mere two weeks after the Central Bank bombing, was crucial. Australia and West Indies had refused to ‘honour’ their World Cup fixtures in Colombo and instead wanted the games to be shifted either to Pakistan or India.


But once the joint India-Pakistan team played in Colombo, security fears were put to rest and Sri Lanka had a strong case to argue. That made the ICC to award the points of ‘the forfeited matches’ in favour of Sri Lanka.


Ours is also a nation that has suffered much due to the war and there was absolutely no cricket played whatsoever at home for five years in the latter part of the 1980s. As a result, several of our star performers hardly played any cricket at home during the peak of their careers. If SLC is satisfied with the security, they should make sure they send a full team to Pakistan.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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