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2017: The Year When Cricket Returned to Pakistan!

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Last week, Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Najam Sethi announced that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has agreed to play a T20 series in Pakistan and the United States every year for the next five years. The agreement will come into effect when both teams will play three T20 matches on March 29, March 31 and April 1 in Lahore.

Sethi, who has been the force behind the gradual return of cricket in the country said: “There has been a lot of speculation regarding the Pakistan and West Indies series. I can confirm now that both the boards have reached an agreement under which we will play a T20 series each year for the next five years in Pakistan and USA subject to availability of dates and venues which will be finalized later.”

2017 proved to be the very successful year in this regard and with many matches of the PSL poised to take place in Pakistan, one can expect 2018 to be no different.

The series was to be played in November but it was canceled due to smoggy weather in Lahore. Sethi, who has often times said that baby-steps have to be taken for the revival of international cricket said: “This series couldn’t be held in November as earlier planned due to adverse weather conditions and we didn’t want to take any risk.”

Read more: International cricket back with a bang: Pakistan welcomes West Indies

The Pakistan Cricket Board under the stewardship of Sethi has been largely successful in bringing cricket back home after the horrific attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket Team had deprived passionate supporters of live action for a good part of eight years. Though, Zimbabwe visited Pakistan for a short tour in 2015.

All has seemed to be the change for the better in 2017. After the successful organization of the final of the 2nd edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in March, Pakistan hosted a galaxy of stars in September. The World XI visited Pakistan and partook in the Independence Cup.

Impressed by the arrangements and hospitality, stars like Hashim Amla, David Miller, and others promised to come back. The optics that went out were refreshingly positive and contributed significantly in telling the world that Pakistan has defeated terrorism like no other country.

Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Najam Sethi announced that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has agreed to play a T20 series in Pakistan and the United States every year for the next five years.

The best was yet to come. The city of Lahore embellished the annals of history as it hosted the Sri Lankan Cricket Team for the third and final match of the T20 series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The arrival of the Sri Lankan team spoke volumes of the country’s trust in Pakistan and its support for ensuring that passionate fans in the country.

Though the squad was different, every Sri Lankan traveling in a bomb proof bus from the Allama Iqbal International Airport to the hotel must have recalled the tragic incident of 3rd March 2009 in the very city when heroes to many in Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis and three others were inflicted with bullet injuries while facing a militant ambush. Indeed, had it not been for the heroics of the then bus driver, Mehr Khalil, the world of cricket may have lost jewels.

Read more: How Australia took lead to empower its female cricketers?

This is especially true in the case of Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne who survived the brazen attack in 2009 and are now part of the squad as team manager and batting coach respectively.

Firmly and painstakingly etched in memory, the attack did not deter the Sri Lankan team from putting up its hands to come and play in Pakistan, in the process becoming the second test playing nation to dazzle the country and contribute toward ending the 8-year long drought of international cricket in that country.

The match had little significance from a cricketing point of view but according to one and all, Pakistan won before the first ball was bowled. At a time when the country is being castigated left, right and center for allegedly fostering terrorism, Danny Morrison going berserk with his cavalier commentary was just the right thing that Pakistan needed.

The arrival of the Sri Lankan team spoke volumes of the country’s trust in Pakistan and its support for ensuring that passionate fans in the country.

Encouraged by the response, Sethi has set his sights on eventually hosting the entire PSL in Pakistan, something that he expressed while opening the players’ drafts last week in a gathering in Lahore.

Read more: International cricket returns: West Indies all-set to tour Pakistan in November

The PCB is certain that cricket will develop rapidly if and when cricket is played on home soil. All cricket experts and former greats agree with this assertion. 2017 proved to be the very successful year in this regard and with many matches of the PSL poised to take place in Pakistan, one can expect 2018 to be no different.