“World must support Pakistan’s journey back to cricket”, urges Sangakara

LAHORE (APP): Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) President, Captain Kumar Sangakara has reminded the world of its collective responsibility to support Pakistan in its journey back to cricket at the home soil.

Addressing a press conference alongside Chief Executive Officer (CEO) PCB Wasim Khan at the Gaddafi Stadium, here on Thursday, he said it was unfortunate that Pakistani cricketers could not perform before their home crowds due to the security situation, adding that the situation had improved a great deal.

Reminiscing on the similar security challenges in Sri Lanka, the former Sri Lankan great said Sri Lanka was in need of assistance in 1996, and the unified front of the cricketing nations showed up to play in the country and “gave the message that cricket was healthy and the country was safe”. Sangakara stressed cricket was all about engaging people from different countries it was important for the players to play and perform their home crowds.

To a query, he said Sri Lanka was the first team to tour Pakistan and play tests after the 2009 unfortunate terrorist attack, adding that as a fellow Sri Lankan and President of the MCC, he was happy to do his part. He said these tours would encourage countries to visit Pakistan, adding, “Pakistan is one of the best cricketing destinations in the world.” “But slowly cricket is coming back, Sri Lanka was one of the first teams [to come back]. As a Sri Lankan and as president of the MCC, I am so happy we are able to do our part to try and encourage countries to look at Pakistan as one of the best cricketing destinations. It has been that in the past and I am sure it will be that very soon.”

On the importance of cricket in Pakistan, Sangakara said, “Cricket belongs to all and if there is no cricket to watch for the youngsters, the hunger for the game is more likely to go away,” adding, it was good for the global cricket MCC tour was the part of the campaign to encourage other sides to come to Pakistan. About a message to the teams reluctant to visit Pakistan, Sangakara said, “Our actions can better persuade the teams than the words,” adding that the performances at the grounds and the media coverage were the best tools towards luring teams back to the country for cricket. “Security is a challenge everywhere in the world but Pakistan has taken steps over the past few years have infused great confidence in cricketing nations and as the more side tour the message becomes stronger”, he added.

To a question, Sangakara praised CEO Wasim Khan for his behind the scene work to bring cricket back in Pakistan, adding that ICC was a great advocate of cricket being played at home grounds of all cricketing nations. He said the tour had happened only after many of the concerns, shared by cricketing nations, had been addressed by the PCB. “We are here as the ambassadors of cricket and the MCC and it is hoped the cricket we play here the message would go beyond the shores of Pakistan”, Sangakara responded.

To a question, he said he had fond memories of cricket in Pakistan and as a batsman he had always loved to tour Pakistan. He was very happy to be back in Pakistan after the 2009 tour, adding that he had many friends in the Pakistani team and looked forward to his visit to Pakistan.

“MCC tour of Pakistan was under discussion for a long time but till we saw the passion Wasim had, we decided to visit the cricket mad nation,” he added. In his opening remarks, CEO PCB Wasim Khan said, Kumar Sangakara had been a great ambassador for cricket being back in Pakistan, adding, “It is a monumental moment for us as the MCC is visiting Pakistan after 48 years the most cricket club of the world and the home of cricket.

“It is also a symbolic moment and a huge achievement for us. MCC is the first non-Asian cricket team to tour Pakistan for a long time and they are to play three matches at the Aitchison College and a match at the Gaddafi stadium tomorrow”, he responded. He thanked the MCC and Kumara Sangakara for the support and the decision to come to Pakistan.

To a question, Wasim Khan said that all Asian teams you need to understand the symbolic nature of the MCC tour which would help lift that barrier of non-Asian countries to come. He said, “In order to create role models it is vital to have our players play at the home grounds,” adding, “It is difficult to have role models when our players play before audiences in the UAE.”

About the chances of South Africa to visit Pakistan by the last week of March, he said the Cricket South Africa would confirm in the next few days while the PCB was also to make some logistics arrangements as the South African would end its India visit on March 18 while Pakistan would hold the PSL5 finals on March 22.

About playing matches at the Aitchison College instead of the Gaddafi, the CEO elaborated that the matches had to be rescheduled at the Aitchison due to the Kabaddi World Cup finals at Punjab stadium while the PSL 5 was also kicking off on 21st February and the pitches need to be in good stead.

“It’s not about the venues but more of the symbolism of MCC visiting Pakistan to play cricket”, he stressed. PCB CEO Wasim Khan, to a query, said it would be possible to play a normal series at different venues in the country during the upcoming Pakistan New Zealand series in January 2021.