After more than a decade, Test cricket will finally return home as Sri Lanka has agreed to tour in December for a two-match series. The efforts of various segments to bring the nation out of the wilderness have finally borne fruit.
Pakistan has not hosted the longer format of the sport since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus that killed six security personnel and two civilians, while leaving six players injured. The doors for cricket were shut for several years since then, but the sport has seen an upward trajectory recently.
After a lapse of six years, international cricket returned in 2015 when minnows Zimbabwe toured the country. Pakistan also hosted a number of limited-overs matches in recent years. The success of PSL matches raised hope that Pakistan is a safe and secure destination.
Sri Lanka has been a victim of terrorism similar to Pakistan in the past year. It is thus necessary to thank the island nation for its role in reviving cricket. Their national team visited Pakistan for three ODIs and T20 matches in September and October. However the tour failed to generate enough buzz as ten key players opted to stay away citing security reasons.
Pakistan faced a disappointing drubbing against the second-tier team, but the national team is known for its inconsistencies and has the potential to bounce back. The improved performance in the ongoing practice matches in Australia is an example that the series will bel a treat to watch for cricket enthusiasts.
If things are held according to plan, Pakistan will host two test matches- one each in Rawalpindi and Karachi on Dec 11 and 19 respectively. This is welcome news for fans in the cricket-starved nation, but the game is bound to keep security forces on their toes. Test matches are held for five days and teams will have to be transported back from the stadium daily. This could create disruption for local residents as roads remain lockdown when matches are being played.
The efforts of the PCB to reassure cricketing nations to tour Pakistan, given the improved security situation, should be appreciated. The government pledges top-notch security reserved for heads of state to the cricket teams. Needless to say, the success of this series will pave the way for further cricket if top-ranked nations agree to tour Pakistan. Meanwhile, the national team needs to focus on the historic series ahead.