The Zimbabwe Cricket team is on a tour to Pakistan. This is the first time since 2009, when the touring Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Lahore, that any international cricket team is visiting the country. In a way cricket has suffered the collateral damage of the increased acts of violence in Pakistan. Even before 2009, many international sides were reluctant to visit the country but after the incident involving the Sri Lankan team, the country was literally out of bounds for any cricket side. The Pakistan Cricket team has suffered immensely because of this lack of international cricket at home. With no international cricket, the Board has had severe financial constraints, thereby putting domestic cricket in jeopardy. Fortunately with the advent of T 20 cricket, the PCB has been at least able to organize tournaments in the shorter version of the game between domestic teams, providing some modicum of entertainment to the fans.
In this backdrop the return of the game to Pakistan should be seen as a monumental event in their cricketing history. Pakistan has often had long spells where it did not play cricket against its arch rival India, due to political reasons. In 2004, the two countries played a full fledged series after 15 years. All the matches were well attended and the touring Indian team was well received by the Pakistani cricket lovers. There was an environment of festivities all round. This series against Zimbabwe holds significance not only for the spectators, who havent seen a home game for the last six years, but also for most players as well. Most players in this Pakistan team, with a few exceptions like Shahid Afridi and Hafeez havent played in front of their home crowds. Playing in front of their home crowds, their parents and friends and do well is the ultimate joy for any athlete. Players like Umar Akmal and Shehzad will face a cricket ball for the first time in their home grounds. It will be a moment worth cherishing for them, notwithstanding that the opposition team is Zimbabwe. For the last six years, UAE has become the home ground for the Pakistan team. The team has done well in the longer format of the game there, having lost no series so far. Their record in the shorter version of the game has been mixed.
Despite the odds of being a pariah in the international game for the last six years, Pakistani team has done reasonably well to win many test matches / series against top test playing nations including Australia and England. Pakistan will hope to do well against the touring Zimbabwe team. But more important than that, the Pakistan Cricket Board, cricketers and fans would pray for a safe series without any incidents of violence. The administrators and fas will have their fingers crossed, hoping this will be the first step of getting international cricket back on track in Pakistan.
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