After the conclusion of the Marylebone Cricket Club’s week-long tour of Lahore, the club’s president and captain of tour-squad to Pakistan, Kumar Sangakkara strongly urged more international teams to consider touring Pakistan to ensure full revival of cricket in the country.
The MCC arrived in Lahore on February 13, to play a 50-over and three T20 matches.
Over the course of their stay, the visitors explored the city by playing golf, visiting the historic Lahore Fort and enjoying food in Lahore.
Sangakkara said: “We would love for teams to consider coming here so that international cricket can finally come back to Pakistan in full force.”
Speaking to PCB podcast, the batting great said: “It’s been great to be back in Pakistan.
“It’s been a long time since I came here and it has been even longer for the MCC. For us, it has been about coming here and playing cricket in support of Pakistan’s journey of getting international cricket back.
“The message we will be taking back is about the warmth of the people, the welcome of the fabulous spectators who came to watch cricket, the passion the players and people have for it and our own experiences of playing here and traveling about in Lahore.
In the last three months, Sri Lanka have played two Tests – in Rawalpindi and Karachi – and Bangladesh have been here twice for a three-match T20I series and a Test in Rawalpindi. With the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League, commencing today, being hosted in Pakistan for the first time since the advent of the league, the MCC’s visit rubberstamps the country’s ability to host international cricket.
“It is important things are put into context, moves are made, minds meet and things are reconsidered because the message that we take back is that Pakistan is a great place to tour,” Sangakkara said.
“I remember all those matches that I’ve played here but it’s always special to come back and revisit it. We never expected such a big crowd for a first game against the Qalandars. When we got to the ground, we had almost 19,000 people, hungry to watch some cricket.”
Sangakkara – who has 12,400 Test runs, the most for any Sri Lankan batsman – praised the young talent in country. “I think Pakistan cricket is in a very healthy state,” he said. “Pakistan has always produced exceptional cricketers, especially young cricketers with a lot of variety; really fast bowlers, really good batsmen, mystery spinners, wrist spinners, you name it. On this trip it was no different.
“There were so many players from the Qalandars’ side who were exciting and orthodox. In the Northern, the domestic T20 champions, you had exciting players. In the [Pakistan] Shaheens, you had some really good batsmen.”
There is a divide in the global cricket fraternity regarding the future of Test cricket and whether four-day Tests should replace five-day contests. When the question was put to Sangakkara, he said: “We need to ask how many Test matches really go into five days? How many people are now actually coming to the ground to watch five days of cricket? Or whether there is a realistic possibility into the future of them coming with the time constraints of a modern society?
He said that the day-night Tests have been mooted and various other innovations have been brought to keep the crowds in the stadiums for Test cricket.