PCB hopes for Australia, England Test tours next

LAHORE: Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, believes it is realistic to expect Australia and England to return to Pakistan under the current future tours programme following the planned resumption of Test cricket in the country with Sri Lanka’s visit next month.Wasim hopes that Sri Lanka’s “hugely symbolic” return for two Tests, along with staging the entire Pakistan Super League in the country this season, will continue to shift the perception about Pakistan, though he conceded that it is likely to be a lengthy process.The PCB has recently hosted Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts and his counterparts at the ECB, Tom Harrison, and Cricket Ireland, Warren Deutrom. Wasim said that they all left with positive impressions of the security situation in Pakistan, and invitations to tour have been extended to South Africa, Ireland and Afghanistan, while Bangladesh are scheduled to tour in January under the FTP.As a stepping stone to full tours by Australia and England - slated for 2022 in the programme - Wasim is hoping for the A teams of the two countries to travel first.“Do I think that’s realistic? Absolutely. Can it happen? I think it’s a case of ongoing dialogue working closely with players’ associations,” Wasim told ESPNcricinfo.“The first big step was to get Kevin and Tom to come over, which they committed to and really threw themselves into, which is superb. The FTP, the next two or three years, it gives us the opportunity to take small steps. It’s not going to happen overnight, we need to continue to build confidence on what we do.“Our greatest selling point is word of mouth from players - 260 foreign players from across 15 countries registered for the draft, which shows how far we’ve come. I’m hoping that will accelerate people’s thinking in wanting to come and visit. We just have to be consistent in our approach with every country.”Wasim, who took up his role ten months ago after having served as the Leicestershire chief executive, said that first-hand experience of Pakistan is the best way to see the progress that has been made.“The one big thing is that I think there’s a perception about Pakistan and what exists there, it’s not until you get there that you realise the reality is very different,” he said. “I think everyone who came over had a really good experience, saw that it’s a normal country and people live a normal way.“Wherever you look in the world, Pakistan is as safe as anywhere… the world’s not a great place at the moment, but we’ve done everything we can to get the security measures in place. We are pretty experienced at it now, because we’ve had to be. What people say when they leave is that it’s not what I imagined it would be. It’s frustrating at times because people have this perception because that’s what the media paints. It’s had its fair share of issues in the past, we remain vigilant, there’s no complacency, but we are good at what we do and I encourage people to come have that experience.”While Wasim focuses a lot of his efforts into the long-term plans for international cricket in Pakistan, the performance of the national teams also remains at the forefront. The Test side begins its World Test Championship campaign at the Gabba, then the team heads into a new World Cup cycle and tries to arrest a slide in its T20I form, even as the women’s team prepares for the T20 World Cup in Australia.“We are sitting seventh in Tests, sixth in ODIs - that is a concern for us and something we want to address,” he said.“We want to be walking out at Lord’s in 2021 for the Test Championship final, there’s a number of ICC events coming up and we go in to win every one. It’s also about focusing on the long game for Pakistan, which is about sustainable success, in order to do that you’ll have to go through some pain again and again to get to where we want to.”The number of central contracts for women was reduced from 17 to ten this year but the value increased, alongside further enhancements such as business class travel. Wasim has also been encouraged by Nida Dar’s stint in the WBBL with the Sydney Thunder, and wants to use that as a catalyst for further growth.“Nida will come back a better cricketer for this experience and for us it is about providing as much of that as possible,” he said. “You only grow, mature and learn by having experience to different lifestyles. It’s important we given women’s cricket due value, I was very much involved in that in England, we want to get to a stage where we keep closing the gap in terms of pay and get to the stage that Australia have with maternity leave. There’s so much we want to do.”

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