LAHORE: Ehsan Mani, the newly-elected chairman of the PCB, wants to engage the foreign office and embassies in Pakistan to accelerate the resumption of international cricket in the country.
Only a handful of teams have toured Pakistan since the attacks on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009. In recent years, the PCB has banked on financial incentives to bring other international teams to Pakistan, starting with an offer of USD 12,500 per player to get Zimbabwe on board for a short limited-overs tour. The players who toured as part of a World XI last September were paid USD 100,000 each by the PCB, and the second-string West Indies players who visited in April 2018 earned USD 25,000 each.
These are extra costs the PCB could do without, but they have been seen as long-term investments given the goal of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan. In addition, the PCB has also provided an unprecedented level of security to visiting teams, even purchasing its own bomb-proof bus.
Cricket fans in Pakistan, for long starved of big games, have flocked to these games, with a total of over 100,000 spectators attending the three T20Is against West Indies in Karachi.
Mani hoped the PCB, under his chairmanship, would take this process further forward, and said it might require dialogue at a diplomatic level too.
“Whoever has been in the PCB since 2009 has had the same wish, that cricket return to Pakistan. For this we need to undertake confidence-building measures, which have begun [before me] with the PSL, for which I give full marks. At the international level the second-string team of West Indies came here, Zimbabwe came, Kenya came, so work is going on. We need to build on this.
“I haven’t yet discussed this with the board, but there’s an ICC board meeting on October 20 in Singapore, where I hope to start this dialogue.
“I have faith that we will take it as far as we can, but at the same time… If you take a look at any country’s travel advisory, you’ll get an indication of which countries are ready to come and which ones aren’t. We have to engage with this at different levels – through our foreign office, through other countries’ embassies in Pakistan, to find out what their concerns are, why their people want to come to Pakistan or not.”
Apart from series against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE over the next two months, Pakistan have no ‘home’ series scheduled until next September, when they are due to host Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Mani said he would meet members of other boards during the ICC meeting in October and explore the possibility of their teams touring Pakistan.
“Before I [became the chairman], PCB had already spoken to Australia and New Zealand. Then there was a blast in Mastung, because of which New Zealand pulled out. Australia said that if New Zealand tour, we will tour after that. So, unfortunately, those two series of ours have been affected. And it was before I took over.
“Now I will have to see in the future… there’s an ICC meeting on October 20 in Singapore. I’ll meet everyone and talk to everyone about how and when they can tour Pakistan.”