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Monday Sep 30 2019

Mani hails 'another major step' to revive international cricket in Pakistan

KARACHI: Pakistan’s attempt to completely revive international cricket at home took another major step on Monday when Pakistani and Sri Lankan cricketers entered National Stadium for the second one-day international (ODI) match, with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairperson Ehsan terming it a special day for cricket at home.

Although it wasn’t a houseful at the National Stadium, around 40 percent filled stadium cheered with joy as players from both the teams arrived for the national anthem ahead of the match.

“Despite being a working day, people are here cheering for the teams. This is something that our players were not used to while play in Middle East, the atmosphere and local crowd cheering for them.

"This is very special day for me,” Mani told media during the innings break during a press conference. He also thanked Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for sending their team to Pakistan and acknowledged the contributions towards the PCB’s cause of bringing cricket home.

“They have been absolutely exceptional in support for Pakistan cricket, they knew how important it was to this have this tour take place. I am very grateful, without your support this tour wouldn’t have been possible,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka's tour — for three ODIs and three T20Is — was important for Pakistani cricket.

“Sri Lanka has a special place in our heart, they suffered here and we must not forget that. And for them to come is a great act of courage, for them to come forward and support Pakistan Cricket and I want to acknowledge this.

"This is extremely important series for Pakistan and we will build from this. And we will go from strength to strength that we play our all cricket in the country,” the PCB chairperson added.

He highlighted that incidents of terrorism can take place anywhere in the world but important thing was to provide top-level security to the players. “It is so important that games win over any terrorism or threat,” he said.

Mani informed the media that people from other countries' cricket boards were also in contact with Pakistan and Cricket Australia CEO, along with the security consultant, was in Pakistan and the feedback from them was really positive.

“Perception of the country while sitting outside is very different from what it is when you actually visit the country. So it is important for us to get people to come to Pakistan and see how things are here,” Mani said.

“Cricket Australia chairperson is coming to Pakistan in near future; similarly, the ECB are sending their CEO and a board director to come and have a look and then we have Cricket Ireland offered to send representatives themselves, New Zealand has been talking to us as well.

"This tour was important is for us. We all have been saying that things are good in Pakistan but when cricket is being played actually then there’s nothing better endorsement than that,” Mani highlighted.

The PCB chair added that the cricket body was already planning on hosting Australia in 2022 and aims to invite representatives of Australia’s players association for that purpose. He added that it is going to be step by step effort for PCB.

“CEO of CA has already been to Pakistan with security consultant, who was also here for PSL matches, and now CA chairperson wants to come. And we are looking to host home series in 2022, so we are already planning that far ahead, you can’t do that overnight so you’ve to win the confidence of the board first of all, who’re responsible of safety of players.

"After that the players, who rely on their players’ association. We are going to invite the representatives of the Australian players’ association to also come and have a look at Pakistan.

"This is step-by-step issue to gain the confidence,” he said while adding that message from the tour by Sri Lanka team is strong and powerful one.

The PCB chairperson added that Pakistan will not pay any extra money to any team or player visiting Pakistan. He also highlighted, how in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), players became comfortable about being in Pakistan.

In response to a question, Mani said that he believes that cricket should be kept away from politics. “Cricket is meant to connect people, let politicians do what they feel but cricket fraternity should stay united,” he concluded.

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