Stop making security excuses, Sarfraz tells foreign teams

Pakistani pacer Hassan Ali, center, celebrates with teammates after taking wicket of West Indies batsman Denesh Ramdin during their 1st T20 cricket match at National stadium in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, April 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed says foreign teams should stop raising security concerns about his country’s capabilities to host international cricket matches.

Top-ranked Pakistan swept a weakened West Indies 3-0 in Twenty20 series on Tuesday as Karachi hosted its first international games in nine years.

”I don’t think now there’s any excuse left with the (foreign) teams not to tour Pakistan,” Ahmed told reporters. ”The whole world has seen today. The way people have come to the ground, it proves now international cricket can be staged in Pakistan.”

Security in Pakistan had been foreign teams’ major concern for the last nine years since terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore. Since then the Pakistan Cricket Board had been hosting its ”home” matches in the United Arab Emirates.

When the franchise-based Twenty20 Pakistan Super League was started in 2016, it was also organized in the same gulf country, but the PCB has been making efforts to convince the cricketing world that it’s safe to tour the country.

Lahore organized last year’s PSL final and two playoffs this year in which some foreign players from countries like Australia and England refused to represent their franchises due to security concerns. But the PSL final was still staged in Karachi last month, when around 8,000 security personnel were used to offer presidential-like security of the teams. The teams drove to the ground with dozens of armed guards in vehicles surrounding the players’ buses.

It proved a perfect dress rehearsal for Karachi to host West Indies for three days.

Several top players were missing from the West Indies squad, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of Karachiites as more than 70,000 spectators watched the three matches at the National Stadium over the three days.

Spectators had to walk around a mile to reach the stadium after at least three security checkpoints, but it didn’t bother them much.

”So what if it’s a weak West Indies team?” asked a 20-year-old spectator Mohammad Amjad. ”We want to show the world that it’s safe to play in Pakistan.”

West Indies coach Stuart Law of Australia was impressed with the arrangements.

”The security has been outstanding, we haven’t seen any issues, any incidences and anything that may arose was communicated to us very well.”

Law said it’s difficult for people outside Pakistan to assess whether it’s safe to play there.

”Look it’s a bit daunting if you are not used to the (intense security) setup,” he said. ”I’m not saying that (the West Indies tour) has open the floodgates and everyone come rushing back. Still people will have reservations, but from what I’ve seen here it’s more than adequate, that’s for sure.”

Law said playing home matches in the UAE is like playing away from home for Pakistan cricketers.

”I feel sorry for the Pakistan players who don’t play enough cricket in front of their home fans,” he said. ”Every game for them is away game, so you feel for those boys who can’t play in front of their families week in and week out.”