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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Australian tour and Pakistan’s cricket diplomacy

The Aussies last toured the country in 1998 when it won the series by 1-0, and clean swept the ODI series by 3-0.

After almost a quarter of a century, the Australian cricket team returned to Pakistan to play a series of matches in the country. The Aussies last toured the country in 1998 when it won the series by 1-0, and clean swept the ODI series by 3-0. Amidst tight security, the Australian team landed in Pakistan on the 27th of February and were escorted to their hotel in Islamabad.

The first leg of the test series would be played in the Rawalpindi stadium from March 4 to 8, after which the team would fly to Karachi and subsequently to Lahore for the second and third leg of the test series. The ODI and T20’s would be played between 29 March and 4 April.

According to some sources, around 4,100 security personnel have been deployed, and road closures are being maintained to provide the guest team with a safe and secure passage.

Read more: Australia’s Pat Cummins should listen Azan on Pak tour: Geoff Lawson

According to the City Police Officer, Omer Saeed, this sort of security cover to anyone except the heads of state is unprecedented, adding that “the Australian team has been granted the status of state guest”.

The Australian team was initially apprehensive about traveling to Pakistan. International cricket had stopped in the country following the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus in Lahore in 2009.

Gunmen opened fire on the bus when the cricket team was traveling from a hotel in Lahore to the cricket stadium, killing several security officers and injuring at least five Sri Lankan team members. The event was followed by a forced suspension of international cricket in the country.

Pakistan had become a country where you could find someone playing cricket in every nook and cranny but the stadium. Six years after the incident, international cricket returned to the country, with Zimbabwe becoming the harbingers of International crickets return to Pakistan.

Since 2015, many countries have toured the country, but Pakistan faced another letdown when in September 2021, England and New Zealand’s cricket teams pulled out days before their scheduled trip, citing “security threat” as the reason for their pullout from the tour.

Talking about the return of the Australian cricket team after nearly 24 years, the CPO Omer Saeed added that “The Australian team is coming after 24 years and it’s a great honor for us and a great honor for all Pakistanis that Australia has committed to sending its team and obviously, they are conscious of the security issues.”

Many believe that this tour would bolster sports activity in the country and help Pakistan fix its reputation, which took a hit when the Sri Lankan team was attacked.

Read more: Wife of Australian cricketer receives social media death threat

In Pakistan, cricket and politics have started to go hand in hand. With Zia’s cricket diplomacy in the 1980’s to Imran Khan’s victory in the 92 cricket world cup and subsequent election as the head of the state, cricket has and still does have a significant impact on the country’s history.