3rd March 2009. The dreaded day that saw a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, who were on the way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore from their team hotel. The terrorist attack saw 6 Sri Lankan cricketers being injured alongside 2 team staff and a reserve umpire.
The ambush by terrorists saw the death of 6 Pakistani police officers and 2 civilians, as the Sri Lankan team were hurried out of Pakistan with the aid of helicopters.
As a result, that day saw the banning of international cricket in Pakistan, and is widely regarded as one of the darkest days in Pakistan’s cricketing history.
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Since then, Pakistan has been stripped as the hosts of the ICC World Cup 2011, and have been forced to host their bilateral home series in the United Arab Emirates.
Even though, the country has a lot of Pakistani inhabitants and is familiar to Pakistani cricket, the absence of international cricket from home has resulted in losses for the board and has also halted player confidence.
Even though few lower-level international teams had visited Pakistan during the space, none had an influence on other international teams, on the stance of visiting Pakistan.
Even the tour of Zimbabwe for a 3-match ODI and T20I series did not spark a return of international cricket in Pakistan, as the cricketing world was still unsure about touring Pakistan.
It was not just the international teams that were unwilling to tour the country, but it was the players as well. Pakistan was forced to host the first two editions of its league; the Pakistan Super League; barring the final of the 2nd edition.
The final of PSL 2, was held in Lahore this year, but only a few original international players agreed to visit Pakistan, as back-up international players had been called up. However, with the success of the PSL Final in Lahore, the ICC announced plans of sending a World XI to Pakistan later the year.
And now with the revelation of big names in the World XI squad, including the likes of Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir, the Pakistani fans are up on their feet again.
Pakistan play a 3-match T20I series against the lucrative World XI side on 12th, 13th and 15th of September. But the real question is, if it could spark the return of international cricket to the lonely grounds of Pakistan?
The visit of a star-studded World XI side chosen by former Zimbabwe legend, Andy Flower, might just be what PCB needs, to convince other boards in touring Pakistan. If the tour of the World XI undergoes without any incident, PCB might just have a stronger case to lure boards into touring the cricket-starving country.
PCB has also held talks with the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, with their President also willing to hold one of their 3 T20Is against Pakistan next month in the UAE to be played in Lahore.
Even the West Indies Cricket has expressed their desire to play a 3-match T20I series against Pakistan later in November. However, all this is subject to the safe feedback of the World XI squad to other cricket boards.
If we do get to see the return of international cricket in Pakistan, it will not only be good for their cricket-starved fans, but for the cricket as a whole, as the country boosts a lot of talent, and might just improve the competitiveness of the unpredictable Pakistan team.