Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) team toured Pakistan first time after 1973 for a T20I series ahead of Pakistan Super League (PSL) season 5 in February this year and gave a resounding message of peace and normality in the country that had been marred by terrorism.
Kumar Sangakkara thoroughly enjoyed the warm hospitality with his squad mates and had a blast playing with the emerging players of Pakistan. The touring party played with elan and managed to defeat Lahore Qalandars in the series opener at the iconic Gaddafi Stadium in front of a packed house.
"The more cricket that you play at home, the more times the young children can see their side, their players within almost touching distance and that is wonderful for the country and great for the global game," Sangakkara said in a press conference ahead of the T20I series in Lahore.
The batting great reiterated MCC's commitment to upholding the spirit of the game and said that cricket binds nations and transcends barriers.
"I think MCC is here because of one of the core philosophies of the MCC is that we are independent and the spirit of cricket is strong and the spirit of cricket transcends most barriers that sometimes keep nations and people apart," he remarked.
Sri Lanka’s stalwart considered MCC tour as a precursor towards bringing more international cricket to Pakistan and he hopes after assessing the security situation for themselves, the top teams could return to play against an integral member of International Cricket Council in their home soil.
"I think it's important that England or Australia, even South Africa, make up their minds to actually tour when security is assured and they have those discussions; the MCC tour will be a precursor to that," he told The Cricket Show on SkySports Cricket.
It’s been 15 years since England last toured the shores of Pakistan. The recent tours were organized in Pakistan's home away from home – United Arab Emirates.
Sangakkara ruled out the possibility of a full-fledged five-Test match series and opines a split shorter tour would be more feasible in the near future.
"There are a few things that players also need to accept when it comes to these restrictions. I don't think you are ever going to see in the near future a five-Test match series coupled with a one-day series played back-to-back. I think it will be more a case of you play two Test matches, you take a break, you go back and play three one-dayers.
"It's not exactly the right time for extended tours but I'm sure that with the right communication and the measures in place that players can go back and play some great quality cricket, have a great time and bring cricket back to Pakistan," Sangakkara added.
Pakistan is often tagged as a 'mercurial' side famous for stunning oppositions, be it ICC Champions Trophy 2017 or the late resurgence in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
They produce telling contests and arouse a sense of anticipation and excitement in fans that makes Pakistan a widely followed team and Kumar understands the importance of a strong Pakistan side.
"A strong Pakistan side playing in front of their home crowds is one of the best things that can happen to world cricket."
Largely owing to the vibrant media presence and hype generated by PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars, in addition to PSL 5 around the corner, the T20I series served as a prelude to the major tournament. MCC's president and the captain of the visiting side were touched by the warmth and the overwhelming reaction from the spectators.
"To have them come out there in force - there were queues just as we got to the ground of people waiting to go in - and the reception that we got, the enthusiasm that they showed the happiness on their faces; their welcome, their hospitality, was absolutely incredible," Sangakkara said.
The prolific southpaw didn't envision he would be going back to Pakistan to partake in a cricket series and rather envisioned going in some other capacity, perhaps as a coach or guest, but he felt fortunate to play again at one of the historic venues with heartwarming support.
"It's a funny thing. When I thought I'd go back to Pakistan after 2009 I was pretty sure it would not be to play cricket but here we were, 10 years down the line, and I was thereafter having retired donning my cricket gear on and playing in front of what I remember to be one of the best venues I've ever played at with so much support."