:: People’s Time Online ::
In a press release posted on its website, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the game’s global governing body, has congratulated Pakistan “for the successful staging of the Pakistan versus the World XI series for the Independence Cup at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.”
In separate messages, ICC Director Giles Clarke and Chief Executive David Richardson have thanked Pakistani fans for “embracing the World XI players”, noting that the series had highlighted “Pakistan’s passion and love for cricket, as well as its ability to provide an environment in which international cricket stars can show their talent.”
Still, the ICC executives said the series was a small step towards the “safe and steady revival” of international cricket in the country, with the ICC’s release stating the next step would be a tour by a full member country as opposed to a composite side.
Pakistan is looking to host Sri Lanka and West Indies in the near future, which will prove an acid test for the country’s readiness to welcome back international fixtures to the country.
“The reception the team received was quite extraordinary, and for all of us, we did our best to interact with the crowd,” Clarke, who attended the first two matches, said.
“The reaction of the Pakistanis who were at the ground is something I have never seen in my life. They were so pleased, saying thank you, and they were so excited by the players being there.
“I felt the tour unleashed the deep and powerful emotions that exist around cricket in this country’s makeup and its society,” he added.
Recalling that the series had presented an “enormous challenge”, Clarke noted that it had required a tremendous economic sacrifice but that the planning by all government agencies and security advisors was “extraordinarily competent” and “detailed”.
“I think this courageous team, its management and all the people in Pakistan who have been involved, have demonstrated that it is possible for overseas players to come to Pakistan and show their skills in Pakistan and be able to give the people of Pakistan the chance to watch their own heroes in action against the best international players,” he added.
“From my point of view, as Chairman of the ICC’s Pakistan Task Team, I am very pleased that we have accomplished this and I am sure the players will talk to their colleagues and we will see the return of bilateral international cricket to Pakistan.”
Richardson, who was present for the second T20 match, said: “One of the main reasons for staging the tour was as a stepping stone to building the confidence that even though there may be some danger to staging sports events or visiting Pakistan, the Pakistan security agencies are more than capable of mitigating that threat.”
Calling the tour a “success”, he hoped that the returning international players would tell their teammates that “although there may be some level of risk, it can be managed successfully.”
“I am very satisfied. Back in 2009, the confidence in the security situation in Pakistan was obviously at an all-time low. And following on, very recently over the past 12 to 24 months, the improvements that have been made by the Pakistan security forces in, first of all, bringing the threat down and secondly, improvements made in security arrangements, that was a catalyst for now moving from that phase of playing international cricket in neutral territories to try to make an effort to bring international cricket back to Pakistan.”
Saying that the main objective now would be to build confidence in the Australian and South African sides, Richardson said the tour had demonstrated that Pakistan could not only plan security for foreign players, but also implement it.
“Returning full-time international cricket back to Pakistan is not going to be an overnight miracle. It has to take time. The PSL final was the first step, this is the second. We have now shown that events can be staged in one city over a short period of time in a Twenty20 format.
Now, the next steps have to be taken, meaning can they be rolled out in more than one city over a longer period of time. Probably the next steps would be a tour by a Full Member country as opposed to a composite team,” he said, reflecting Clarke’s statement.
“The warmth, that welcomed the players and teams back, was really heartening to see. Probably the fact that there is still such warmth and support for cricket has really been the reason why Pakistan has been able to be competitive even though it is not playing matches at home.
“So, we are really very happy for the people of Pakistan and grateful that they have welcomed the World XI in the fashion that they did,” he added.