International cricket turn back to Pakistan
Lahore: International cricket turn back to Pakistan after six years as the country hosts Zimbabwe at Gaddafi Stadium for a T20 match at 19:00 (PST) on Friday.
It can be a discreet affair strictly cricket terms, but Friday’s opening Twenty20 clash between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Lahore is a chance for guests to show they are once again open for business.
Cast in sports exile after the 2009 attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan have suffered financial losses amounting to $ 120 million by having to play their games “house” on neutral places like Emirates Arab Emirates, according to an official estimate.
Beyond money, Pakistan’s young crop of players – including established batsmen Umar Akmal, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, who all played more than 50 international – have never known the lifting effect of a city audience native or pitch.
Pakistan is desperate to revive sporting events at home and must ensure it is the first of several security incidents-free tours to restore confidence.
The series, comprising two Twenty20s and three one-dayers, was almost sabotaged last week after militants killed 45 Ismailis in an attack against their bus in Karachi.
But Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) has finally given the green light to a week to go, and since then, the two sides exchanged expressions of mutual brotherhood.
ZC chief Ozias Bvute compared to Pakistan’s fate removing Zimbabwe’s test status from 2005 to 2011, while captain Shahid Afridi thanked the visitors and praised their “courage”.
Security is provided by about 6,000 police and paramilitary border the hotel’s way players’ luxury on the city’s main Mall Road at Gaddafi Stadium, where all 27,000 tickets were sold.
The excitement among Pakistan’s cricket crazy public too, with the hashtag #CricketComesHome local Twitter trends.
Guests will be desperate to avoid an upset in front of their home crowd after a disastrous tour of Bangladesh where they lost all their limited-overs matches.
Before the game, Afridi said it was time to rebuild the team before next year’s World Twenty20 in India.
Besides Afridi, Shoaib Malik and drummer paceman Mohammad Sami (both recalled after a long absence), Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez are set to appear in the new-look side.
In the case of a comic series, Pakistan will fall to seventh place while Zimbabwe can move up three places to ninth if they win a game and the seventh if they win both.
This, Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said, was an incentive for minnows.
“It’s a good thing about cricket than any team that plays good cricket on a given day can win, in a way no country, but in a way the eleven guys out,” he said.
The match will be officiated by referee Ahsan Raza, who was seriously injured in the attacks 2009 after a bullet went through his lung.
Meher Khalil, the bus driver praised for his bravery after the race of the Sri Lankan team to safety after the ambush by machine gun and rocket launcher wielding activists will be present.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Sarfraz Ahmed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Mukhtar, Noman Anwar, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan Anwar Ali, Hammad Azam, Imad Wasim, Bilawal Bhatti, Wahab Riaz Mohammad Sami
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams