Cricket Australia optimistic of Pakistan tour

It has been more than 20 years that any Australian side has visited Pakistan for a series and the security situation in Pakistan has forced the side to play its series at a neutral venue – United Arab Emirates.

However, with the Sri Lankan cricket team touring Pakistan and security situation improving rapidly, the doors to international cricket in Pakistan are also opening.

Sri Lanka will be touring Pakistan to play three One-day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 International (T20I) matches, scheduled to take place from September 27 to October 9, 2019.

This will be Sri Lanka’s second tour of Pakistan since the 2009 attack.

The Sri Lankans returned to Pakistan for a T20I in Lahore in October 2017 with a squad led by Thisara Perera, who has decided to stay out of the tour this time.

Now the Cricket Australia (CA) officials are optimistic about touring Pakistan in 2022 but any such decision will be taken after careful deliberation.

According to details, CA Chief Executive Kevin Roberts and Security Head Sean Carroll have returned home from Pakistan, after the first high-level Australian delegation visit in more than a decade.

Roberts believes that their visit will go a long way in strengthening relationships with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Cricket Australia is hopeful its elite men’s team will tour Pakistan in 2022. Photo: Cricket Australia

“The beauty of the timing of this visit, we wanted it to happen well before we were faced with a key decision,” Roberts told SEN radio on Thursday.

“The purpose was really to understand the landscape, look at the plans they have in place around security and then start expressing our expectations for the safety of our players and our support staff well over two years away from when we’re due to tour. So that we’re not dealing with that, in a pressure-cooker environment, couple of months before the tour,” he added.

The 47-year-old, who played 23 first-class and 18 List-A matches for New South Wales between 1994 and 1998, also revealed that things were heading in the right direction as far as tour of Pakistan is concerned.

“Things are heading in the right direction, but in saying that we were travelling in armoured cars and escorted by police and felt very safe over there. But certainly that level of security is still required at this point,” he said.

Three Australian Cricketers – Tim Paine, Ben Cutting and George Bailey – were part of the World XI squad that toured Pakistan in 2017 for three T20Is. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier, Australian skipper Aaron Finch also opens up on playing cricket in Pakistan.

“From all reports, the guys who played there said it was an amazing time to play cricket in Pakistan, just for them to have cricket back in their home country where there’s so much love and passion for the game is incredible. It’s well above my decision-making whether to decide whether the team should go back and whether it’s safe enough,” Finch said in Taunton.

“So I’m sure that all countries and the ICC and everyone involved is doing their due diligence in making sure that security and everything is looked at to make sure that when cricket is ready to go back to Pakistan. And I’d love to play there. No doubt,” he added.

Australian skipper Finch expresses desire to play in Pakistan. Photo: Getty Images

“It’s such a wonderful country to — you hear of stories of guys who played there in the past that said how amazing it is to play there and then similarly to India with the passion of their fans and the crowds, when it’s ready it will happen. And that’s going to come down to individual boards and the ICC and all the right people making the decisions,” Finch concluded.

No Australian team has toured Pakistan since 1998. Efforts were made to convince Australia to play some matches in Pakistan this year, but it didn’t work. Australia last toured Pakistan under the captaincy of Mark Taylor, way back in 1998, but has not done so since because of security concerns.

Pakistan will head to Australia for two Tests, later this year, with the two countries due to meet again in 2022. The PCB is hopeful for that series to take place in Pakistan and instead of the United Arab Emirates — which has been their home away-from-home since the unfortunate attack, in 2009, on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

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