International cricket can come back to Pakistan, Abbas says
ISLAMABAD (AP) Former ICC president and test captain Zaheer Abbas believes Pakistan will eventually revive international cricket in the country.
''I do not want to predict a time frame of international teams touring Pakistan, but I do hope over the next 2-3 years we could see them playing back in Pakistan,'' Abbas said Tuesday. ''When I used to sit on international forums as ICC president I used to talk a lot about it (cricket in Pakistan), but people didn't want to come due to their security concerns.''
Pakistan has not hosted a major test-playing nation since terrorists attacked a Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March 2009. Only Zimbabwe has toured Pakistan since then but that was for a short three-match one-day series last year – also in Lahore.
''Pakistan has a very strong team and it is very important member of ICC,'' said Abbas, who scored a century of centuries in first class cricket. ''Without Pakistan cricket, the world of cricket is not complete.
''The government and people also want the cricket to come back to Pakistan.''
Abbas now tours various cities of Punjab province like Rawalpindi, Multan and Sialkot, where he has been assigned by the provincial government to establish academies for schoolchildren.
When asked whether during his tenure as ICC president he made efforts to bring international cricket back to Pakistan, Abbas said he wasn't the representative of the PCB but was representing ''all the 104 members of the International Cricket Council.''
The United Arab Emirates has been Pakistan's ''home'' since 2009 and the PCB has organized all of its international matches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
But there have been poor crowd attendances – especially in test matches in the UAE. During Pakistan's historic 400th test match, which was also its first-ever day-night test match, there were only a handful of spectators in Dubai against the West Indies.
''At the moment our main grounds are in UAE, but you must have noticed in test cricket only handful of people watched matches and you can realize how important it is to revive cricket back home,'' Abbas said. ''We play on the other side of the world and host international teams for months, financially it also hurts us.
''Cricket grounds (in UAE) demand so much money that I can't tell. I just pray that there's peace in Pakistan and foreign teams themselves say that they wanted to play in Pakistan.''
Despite no home test matches, Pakistan rose to No. 1 in test cricket briefly before slipping to No. 2 after India defeated New Zealand recently.
And that has impressed Abbas.
''There's no international cricket in Pakistan and despite that we became No. 1 and now No. 2. It clearly shows how much depth we have in our test team,'' Abbas said.
Abbas also said the PCB could do more to bring in foreign teams. Shahryar Khan is the chairman of PCB, but he never played first-class cricket.
''I don't want to criticize the present setup, they have done lots of good things,'' Abbas said, ''but to me a sportsman of that particular game should be the head of it.''