Pakistan News

‘Return of international cricket to Pakistan will take time’

‘Return of international cricket to Pakistan will take time’

KARACHI: Legendary batsman and ex-national skipper Zaheer Abbas admitted on Sunday that it would take a while before international cricket makes a return to Pakistan.

The president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) — whose year-old tenure ends at the next board meeting in Edinburgh next month — said the security situation in the country is improving but foreign teams are still reluctant to play in Pakistan.

Since the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore on March 3, 2009 only Zimbabwe visited Pakistan last year for a short limited-overs series.

“I believe unless everything returns to normalcy, we shall not be able to watch international cricket in Pakistan in the near future. But we should not lose hope because there will be a day when our people will see their stars play in front of home crowds,” Zaheer said after being honoured with a gold medal and shield by cricket promoter Nadeem Omar, who is owner of Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Quetta Gladiators.

“Who does not want to see our cricketers play in front of home crowd? Perhaps, we all do. But the atmosphere needs to be ideal as well for that to become a reality,” he added. “The West Indies were ready to tour Pakistan later this year but after another spree of killings, they have opted to play at neutral venue.”

Zaheer described his role at the ICC as a great honour for Pakistan. “It is a position I have been proud to hold on behalf of all Pakistanis. Being the president was indeed a great honour for me as well as the country.”

Regarded as one of the finest batsmen of all-time and the only Asian to score a century of first-class centuries, Zaheer rated his epic 274 at Edgbaston in his first-ever Test innings on English soil in 1971, the best innings of his 78-Test career.

“I made 11 more Test hundreds after that, but my first century would always stand out as the finest I have played. It was the most emotional moment of my life I must say,” he remarked.

Tributes were paid to the Asian Bradman from others as well.

Veteran cricket journalist Qamar Ahmed informed the gathering he had covered a major portion of Zaheer’s career and described his friendship with him as very close.

“As a reporter I have covered many Test matches played by countries other than Pakistan as well. I saw many great batsmen like Gary Sobers, Neil Harvey, David Gower, Mohammad Azharuddin, Greg Chappell and Mark Waugh during my long association with the game but nobody gave me more pleasure than Zaheer.

“As an individual, I always found Zaheer the most humble and generous human being. We should all be proud of his achievements as a cricketer. No Asian has scored 100 first-class centuries. Not even Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar but Zaheer has,” Qamar pointed out.

Nadeem Omar also lauded Zaheer for his contributions for the game. “I think what he has done for Pakistan can’t be said in a few words. His record speaks for itself and we must all be grateful that he is the pride of Pakistan. He deserves all the limelight.”

Those who spoke on the occasion were ex-Pakistan skipper and chief selector Moin Khan, former chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed, KCCA president Prof Ejaz Ahmed Faruqi, PCB governing board member Mansoor M. Khan, banker Arif Habib and PVCA chief Fawad Ijaz Khan.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2016

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