Rawalpindi: The return of Test cricket to Pakistan after a gap of 10 years has been hailed by fans and former players alike.
Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in two Tests in Rawalpindi and Karachi, starting Wednesday, 11 December. Making the moment more poignant is the fact that it is Sri Lanka, the very team whose bus was attacked back in 2009, after which international tours dried up in the country, who are marking the return.
Former players of Pakistan thanked Sri Lanka Cricket as well as the players for working with the Pakistan Cricket Board to make the tour a reality. They were delighted that a new generation of fans could now watch their heroes in the flesh.
"I am especially pleased for the players along with the fans who had to endure a drought of Test cricket at home for a decade or so," said Ramiz Raja, who will be involved in the match broadcast on commentary. "To be able to play on home soil in front of home crowds should have been a given, but sadly an entire generation of Pakistan cricketers missed out on that! Well, all that comes to an end now and here’s to new beginning forever may it last!
"The reality sinks in more with me as I was calling the game on that day over 10 years ago ... Almost feels like I am padding up again!"
Moin Khan, the former captain and wicket-keeper, hoped it would be the start of a revival in Test cricket for Pakistan, who are ranked No.8 on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings.
"This series will not only mark the return of Test cricket in the country, but will also initiate the process of Pakistan’s ascendency in the pinnacle format of the game. You have to play regularly at your home grounds to become a force to be reckoned with which was something Pakistan missed for over 10 years," he said in a PCB release.
"We all fell in love with this game after watching the greats of our times before our own eyes. Lot of us used to miss schools, colleges or universities to watch Test cricket and catch a glimpse of stars like Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and so many others. I don’t condone bunking schools now, but that culture will be back, [where] younger kids and teenagers will fill in the stands to watch top-class players like Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah."
Shoaib Malik, who played in the last Test series between the teams in Pakistan, said: "Test cricket coming back to Pakistan is quite an emotional moment for me. When I retired from red-ball cricket, I knew I was letting go, at a certain level, the essence of cricket. I knew Test cricket will return to Pakistan, Inshallah, but now that it’s here, I’m feeling very emotional.
"I must thank the Sri Lankan team and the Sri Lankan board for taking this step and playing an instrumental role in bringing international cricket back to our country and to our people. We will never forget, may that time never come, but, Inshallah, you will find us hand in hand with Sri Lanka and their people in times of need."