LAHORE: A British Universities cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Monday for two one-day games, with their captain stressing the troubled country badly needs international matches to return.
The cricket-mad nation has not hosted an international match since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during the Lahore Test in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven.
The Universities team will play two 50-over games against a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Under-19 XI in Lahore on Wednesday and Friday, and the tourists’ captain Kamal Alam said he hoped the trip would encourage other sides to visit.
“One of the main things of the tour is not just cricket, but more to show that Pakistan really needs cricket because cricket is the most important thing in the country and it keeps everyone going,” he said at a press conference.
“It’s almost like taking the oxygen out of the country when you don’t have international cricket.”
Alam said it was hard to judge the situation in Pakistan from media reports.
“There’s a lot of high propaganda either way, this is the second time we have come here in the last seven years from the British Universities and we are here as a charity team, and it’s also a goodwill gesture between Britain and Pakistan,” he said.
PCB director of international cricket Intikhab Alam said he hoped the British team’s visit would help improve Pakistan’s image.
“We are trying our level best to try to convince people and the national teams that this place is safe, and I’m sure when this Universities team play here and meet people and go back they will have some idea that things are not that bad,” said Intikhab.
The PCB has also invited Bangladesh to play a limited-overs series later this month, though clearance from Dhaka is still pending.
Since the security situation stopped foreign teams touring, Pakistan have played most of their “home” series in the United Arab Emirates, most recently against England in February.