KARACHI: Pakistan’s cricket chief on Sunday voiced confidence international matches will return to the country as soon as next year.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf said his optimism stemmed from the successful staging of two unofficial Twenty20 matches here on Saturday and Sunday with an International World XI taking on Pakistan All Stars, the first international encounters in three-and-a-half years.
International cricket was suspended in Pakistan after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009, prompting foreign teams to refuse to tour the country over security fears.
Ashraf hoped the two matches will send out positive signals.
“I think these matches, despite being private, are a good step and PCB supported and encouraged these matches and they generated a lot of enthusiasm from the fans, which is a good sign,” Ashraf told reporters.
Ashraf said his board was encouraging several countries to tour.
“When you talk of international cricket, we are in negotiations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe cricket boards and we will give you a good news as early as next year,” said Ashraf.
The PCB had almost convinced Bangladesh to tour last April before the Bangladeshi high court blocked it on security grounds.
The suspension of international cricket forced Pakistan to play ‘home’ series at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and England over the past three years.
But Ashraf insisted Pakistan will host internationals soon.
“We are talking to two other boards as well but I am not going to reveal names. We have given them security plans and I am sure the day is not far when we have big time cricket in Karachi, Lahore and other cities,” he said.
Ashraf revealed his board is also enlisting help from former players in their efforts to bring back international fixtures.
“We are taking former cricketers with us on the matter because we need their services for the revival of the game. We are making our efforts because our people want international cricket,” said Ashraf.