ISLAMABAD — December 11, 2019 will be recorded as one of the most significant days in the cricket history of Pakistan. Wednesday morning, when Pakistani pacer Mohammad Abbas took the first delivery strides to bowl Sri Lankan opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne at the cricket stadium in Rawalpindi, it marked the return of Test cricket on the Pakistani soil after a decade-long hiatus.
In April 2009, militants attacked a busload of the Sri Lankan cricket team outside the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore. The attack shut the doors for international cricket in Pakistan. Pakistani cricketers became nomads and the UAE became their home in exile.
The prominent South Asian nation had witnessed a militant insurgency and repressive military crackdown for many years, deeply affecting its morale. Yet, in recent years, the country made significant gains on the security front — as a result of which, limited over international cricket matches have been played on and off since 2015. This, even as the majority of the cricket is still played in the UAE.
Since early morning, fans in thousands queued outside the stadium. Passionate to make it to the stands and be witness to the historic day, they braved the morning chill as also the hassles of security check. “The tour of the Sri Lankan team is important for fans as well as players,” Javed Miandad told an Urdu news portal, adding, “Staying away from home crowd has badly affected the performance of the players.”
Azhar Ali, the skipper, who has been around since 2010 and the most experienced hand with 75 caps, is playing for the first time on the home turf. In fact, none among the Team 11 has the experience of playing even a single Test match in their country.
Analysts say that the tour can prove beneficial in inspiring other teams to visit Pakistan. The Pakistani board is reportedly in consultation with several other boards to take matters forward. West Indies is expected to be the next team to visit Pakistan to play test matches.