ROYAL TREATMENT: The Kenyans were invited as state guests and received water-tight security, and their coach Steve Tikolo urged other teams to take a leaf out of their book
KARACHI: Full-fledged resumption of international cricket in Pakistan is a long way off, but baby steps have been taken in the right direction after Kenya completed their five-match tour against Pakistan A safely.
However, the dimensions and boundaries were very different as compared to the normal movements on an international tour.
The Kenyans were accommodated in the National Cricket Academy (NCA), just a minute’s walk to the Gaddafi Stadium, where all the five matches were held, and were also taken to limited cultural and political places.
Although Kenyans are nowhere near the stature of Ireland or perhaps the Netherlands currently – let alone big teams – they were still an international side, even if only a shadow of their predecessors, who reached the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup.
So what can Pakistan expect from their safe and sound visit?
Former Test cricketer Jalaluddin believes that it is a small step towards achieving a very big dream of bringing back international cricket to Pakistan.
“The most heartening thing for me is that Kenyans have safely returned home from their tour, which was a big worry,” Jalal told The Express Tribune.
“An international team – never mind its prowess – came here to play, which may attract other lower teams to try their luck as well. You cannot expect teams like India, Australia or England to come and play here instantly. But even if the likes of the Netherlands, Ireland or Zimbabwe take heart from Kenya’s visit, it’ll be a big boost for Pakistan cricket.”
Jalal, who holds the record of achieving the first-ever ODI hat-trick, also explained that Pakistan need to improve their own security situation before looking at other teams to help them break the ice.
“We shouldn’t run away from the reality, because the truth is that our security has been regularly breached of late and until we don’t feel safe ourselves, we can’t invite others. Once the security concerns end, teams would themselves come and play here.”
The Kenyans were invited as state guests and received water-tight security, and their coach Steve Tikolo urged other teams to take a leaf out of their book.
“The hospitality we received in Pakistan was matchless, while our security arrangements were top-notch as well,” said Tikolo. “I would urge other international teams to follow our example and come to play in Pakistan.
“As a cricketer, I would say that the teams and players should focus on the game and overlook the secondary issues. Although we lost the tour 5-0, the players have gained valuable experience from this visit ahead of an important tournament in January.”
Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman (PCB) Shaharyar Khan remained optimistic that the board will be able to host more teams next year.
“We took a step which turned out to be successful and next year, we’ll call more teams to tour Pakistan,” said Shaharyar.
“The PCB had shown, to an extent, that it can host international teams successfully, and there is a Chinese proverb that says a thousand-mile journey starts with the first step.”