Giles Clarke will renew his relationship with the PCB © Getty Images
Giles Clarke, the ECB president, is set to renew his relationship with the Pakistan Cricket Board, after being tasked alongside Dave Richardson, the ICC chief executive, to explore ways to boost the board’s economy in the absence of any home international matches.
The decision was taken at the quarterly ICC board meeting that concluded in Cape Town on Friday. The board also agreed to look into financial “assistance” for the PCB given that it has now been almost eight years since their cricketers were last able to play a match in front of their home fans.
Clarke, who is a member of the powerful Financial and Commercial Affairs Committee, headed up the ICC’s original Pakistan Task Force in 2009, although he was unable to visit the country in that capacity due to the ongoing security concerns.
Despite their difficulties, Pakistan’s Test team rose to become the No.1 nation earlier this year following a hugely creditable 2-2 draw in their away series against England. It is understood that Clarke is scheduled to meet PCB officials in a month’s time to chalk out the details of the ICC’s funding exercise.
“We reflect the unique contribution of Pakistan to world cricket. There is a huge amount of goodwill at the ICC board table for Pakistan,” Clarke told ESPNcricinfo. “Along with the [ICC] chief executive, I have been charged with looking at how we can assist Pakistan. Some of the economics of life has not been easy for Pakistan because they can’t play home games.
“We are looking at the economics of Pakistan cricket, seeing where the ICC can help in recognising the importance of Pakistan to the international cricketing community, and to the cricketing world. They got the Test mace and played a superb series in England this summer. They were magnificent on and off the pitch during the England series.”
Describing himself as a “very committed supporter” of Pakistan cricket, Clarke said he had spent seven years trying to figure out ways to develop the game in the country.
“We have made a bit of progress today with some of the ideas that came out of the meeting. Dave Richardson and I are going to see what we can do to help Pakistan cricket economically and what we can do what possibilities are there for anyone to tour Pakistan.”
However, the prospect of international cricket making a permanent return to Pakistan remains doubtful. Earlier this year, memories of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in March 2009 were revived when another terrorist attack ripped through Lahore, killing at least 72 people and injuring 300 others in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, a popular hangout.
“As you know, we were a very long way down the road with a concept of having a heavyweight world team tour Pakistan and play against Pakistan,” said Clarke. “Then the atrocity in Lahore absolutely scuppered that.”
As a consequence of that attack, the PCB had to terminate a planned World XI versus Pakistanis match, an exercise that had been intended to provide a first step towards a return of full international cricket.
“Cricket does not belong in a war zone,” said Clarke. “[But] Cricket does belong in Pakistan. If we are going to bring world cricket back to Pakistan, then we will need the help of the vast number of massively enthusiastic Pakistani cricket followers – which in my view is most of the country. Because it is the bad guys who are stopping us. If you love cricket in Pakistan, you know we can’t have atrocities. It stops people from coming. But if you give up, then the terrorist wins. I am not bloody giving up.”
According to Clarke, PCB executive chairman Najam Sethi made a “very powerful plea” which had struck a chord with the ICC board during the Cape Town meeting. Sethi had been representing his board in the absence of Shaharyar Khan, who could not attend due to health reasons.
During his address, Sethi focused on the major issues that were denting Pakistan cricket financially. Aside from Zimbabwe’s limited-overs tour in May 2015, have played all of their matches since 2009 in the UAE. However, the extra costs incurred by those matches have directly hampered the development of the game back home in Pakistan.
In a bid to shore up their domestic infrastructure, the PCB recently began work on 16 regional academies as a part of their developmental plan. Another option under consideration is that ICC should help carry the cost of Pakistan’s bilateral series in the UAE.
There is, however, an acceptance from all parties that it will ultimately be down to the players themselves to determine whether they are prepared to tour Pakistan again. As England’s current tour of Bangladesh shows, administrators cannot force players to tour when they are not comfortable with the security.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo