Absence of international cricket in Pakistan affecting youngsters

Lahore: The absence of any international cricket in Pakistan for the last three years has started to have its effect on Pakistan cricket with the biggest losers being the budding talents at the domestic circuit.

A senior cricket board official told PTI in an interview that the biggest setback for the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) has been its inability to organise regular tours for the national under-19 and `A` teams.

"It is a fact that in this area we have suffered a lot because such tours are only organised on reciprocal basis. The problem is with no team willing to tour Pakistan at the moment we can`t organise any under-19 or `A` team tours," the official said.

He also pointed out that financially it was just not possible to have series of the `A` team at the neutral venues like it was being done in the case of the national team.

"The under-19 and `A` team tours are supposed to be an opportunity to give exposure to the upcoming players. In the past we discovered top talent mainly from the under-19 and A team matches," the official said.

Former Test selector, Salahuddin Ahmed agreed that in the past the under-19 and `A` team tours had helped the selectors find talents like Shahid Afridi, Saeed Anwar, Aamir Sohail, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Moin Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq to name a few.

Although the board official said that the other boards were keen to have exchange of `A` team tours with Pakistan, he said "these tours are done on reciprocal basis and while our team can go abroad no team is willing to play in Pakistan and that is a big setback for us".

Since militants attacked the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore in March 2009, killing six Pakistani policemen and a van driver and wounding some of the visiting players, no foreign Test team is willing to play in Pakistan due to security concerns.

Even as the PCB is making efforts to revive international cricket in the country but the security situation has been a big stumbling stone.

In April, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) after agreeing to play a ODI and a T20 match in Lahore backed out at the last moment following the Dhaka High Court issuing an injunction on sending the Bangladesh team to Pakistan because of security concerns expressed in a petition filed with the court.

Only Afghanistan has sent its team to play in Pakistan in the last three years against the Pakistan `A` team but the board official admitted that series against non-Test playing nations didn`t help tap or groom the young talent.

"There is no doubt that on one hand while the absence of international matches is hurting us financially it is also making it difficult for us to spot the right talent from the domestic circuit."

To make matters worse, the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) has also continued to resist the resumption of the bilateral ties after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.

"Not having bilateral ties with India is also hurting us in many ways. We have just managed to earn some money from the home series of the national team we have been forced to organise at neutral venues," the official said.

With a heavy workforce and increasing expenses the PCB is now preparing to cut down administrative and other expenses to keep itself financially viable.

"We are fortunate that since 2009 we have received handsome amounts as part of our share from the ICC events, including the T20 World Cup, Champions Trophy and 2011 World Cup and that has helped us keep moving ahead," the official said.