Test cricket is about to resume in Pakistan after a decade long hiatus as Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) agreed to send their team for two-Test match series scheduled in Rawalpindi and Karachi next month.
Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) CEO Wasim Khan reflects on the disastrous consequences of cricket's isolation. He opines cricket cannot prosper and sustain itself in Pakistan if other teams continue to overlook Pakistan.
Wasim estimates millions of dollars loses as a result of playing home series in other countries. The entire country was starved of competitive cricket in the aftermath of the harrowing experience faced by Sri Lanka team in 2009. From thereon, all administrations worked alongside governments to gradually bring international cricket to Pakistan.
The incumbent PCB's CEO is striving to persuade Australia to visit Pakistan in 2022 as he shed light on the fact of financial loses in all the years when top-notch sides weren't ready to reconsider their position but the ice has started to break quickly of late.
"It's difficult to put a figure on it but it would probably run into a few hundred million (dollars). At least a few hundred million," Wasim told AAP.
Pakistan were forced to play in Arabian Peninsula over the years in front of sparse crowds that didn't bode well for the integral member of International Cricket Council (ICC).
However, time is ripe to conduct full-scale international series given the major headways in cricket's resumption in the last few years that started in Najam Sethi's stewardship with Zimbabwe tour in 2015.
"We've had to play in the UAE and it costs us huge amounts of money to play in the UAE.
"I don't think we can financially sustain ourselves if cricket keeps getting played in other areas.
The perception in cricket fraternity is quickly changing about the security situation in Pakistan after the successful tour of Sri Lanka and several matches of Pakistan Super League (PSL). Wasim is of the view that UAE option is no longer required as it's safe to play in Pakistan.
"The Emirates Cricket Board have been good friends to Pakistan cricket for a long time, but it's no longer an option for us because, as far as we're concerned, it's safe to play in Pakistan."
There are many players in the current Pakistan team who are yet to play in front of jam-packed home crowds. One would think it's a special feeling and an added advantage to play in one's backyard.
"That's the reality not only for the fans but also for the players," Wasim said.
Every overseas player among the six PSL franchises came to Pakistan in this year's PSL edition and more than 200,000 jubilant fans thronged National Stadium Karachi which reaffirmed the unebbing interest of the public in the most famous sport. The highly successful Sri Lanka tour harbingered recommencement of bilateral tours as well.
"We've probably lost part of a generation because they've not been able to grow up watching their heroes.
Wasim draws attention to how developing a future crop of cricketers becomes a problem when kids don't see stars before their eyes.
Sri Lanka team visited Pakistan in October 2019 for ODIs and T20Is series ©PCB
"We want players to be playing at home so our kids can be inspired to want to become cricketers, take up the game, like any other country."
After being promoted to the high-profile role, Wasim has been trying to use his rapport and his prior administrative experience for England and Wales Cricket Board in convincing full member teams to reconsider their position on Pakistan since there have been major improvements in law and order situation.
"We know it all comes down to the players," he remarked.
"Players have to feel confident. They have to feel comfortable in the environment they're coming into."
Wasim believes that the entire world is affected by the menace of terrorism and Pakistan has been hit worst by this global challenge. However, he believes that bad times are behind Pakistan and now the country is back to normalcy so it's about time ICC members reassess their perspective in the light of the dramatic improvements.
"Terrorism is a scourge for everybody and we've probably lost more people to terrorism in Pakistan than any other country, but I firmly believe that all those things are behind us now," he said.
"The last two or three years we've been incident-free in all the major cities.
"There's a perception in the outside world which is not a reality of what's going on in Pakistan."
Wasim quoted his own example that he would have never mulled shifting to Lahore 10 months ago with his family if the security wasn't good enough.
"It's a great lifestyle," he opined.
"It's a great cafe culture.
"Over 70 per cent of the Pakistani population is under 30, which is pretty phenomenal.