Legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara turned down a $1.5 million dollar offer to take part in two Twenty20 matches in Pakistan today and tomorrow, which are intended to reintroduce international cricket to the country.
Lara last night confirmed that he had been approached by organisers but felt that associating himself with an event that was not sanctioned by either the International Cricket Council (ICC) or the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) would be sending the wrong messages to the rest of the cricketing world. “Yes, an offer was made to me,” Lara revealed.
Lara said he did not think it would be fair for him to be playing in the matches while the rest of the world’s top cricketers remained unconvinced that Pakistan was safe. “Until such time as the governing body in Pakistan is able to convince the rest of the world that the best safety mechanisms have been put in place, and the ICC agrees, I would have to say no.”
There has been no international cricket in Pakistan since March 2009 when a Sri Lanka team bus was attacked. Two former West Indies players Ricardo Powell and Jermaine Lawson are included in an International XI to be led by Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya. They face a Pakistan All Stars XI team under Shahid Afridi at the National Stadium in Karachi today and tomorrow.
The PCB has disassociated itself from the event which has been organised by Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, the Sind Government’s sports minister. Yesterday Ehsan Mani, the former ICC chief told ESPNcricinfo that though the two matches will boost Pakistan’s reputation as a viable host for international cricket, they won’t be enough to convince Test teams to play in the country yet.
“I do not think that these matches will have an immediate impact in persuading ICC Full Member teams to tour Pakistan but it is a step in the right direction,” Mani told ESPNcricinfo. “The International XI is a small but significant step in the confidence building process to assure overseas players and teams that Pakistan is open for cricket and it is safe for overseas players to come to Pakistan.”
However the PCB has stressed that the games are unofficial and are unsanctioned, and have left Sindh sports minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah to deal with most of the arrangements. “I was disappointed to read that the PCB had disassociated itself from the matches; it appears that PCB is covering itself in case something goes wrong,” Mani said. “This gives totally the wrong message. The PCB should have been very much involved, including assuring itself that adequate security arrangements are in place. It is disgraceful that the initiative to convince players to come to Pakistan is not being led by the PCB but by the Sindh government.
“The PCB’s approach to bringing international cricket back to Pakistan is flawed,” Mani said. “It tried to first persuade and then bully Bangladesh to tour Pakistan. The PCB does not seem to understand that before a full international tour can take place, teams such as the International XI should tour Pakistan to provide a degree of comfort to the ICC Member countries.”
Pakistan cricket chief Zaka Ashraf, though, has said the revival of international cricket is his top priority but apparently accepted the goal is tough to achieve in the near future. While talking to ESPNcricinfo last month, he called the approach of the cricketing world towards touring Pakistan as ‘rigid’.
Mani said the PCB needed to be fully aware of the steps necessary for the return of international tours to the country. “The PCB clearly does not understand the politics of cricket and the pressures on certain countries not to tour Pakistan by others with a different agenda.”