Former cricketer believes the perception about the country’s security situation has changed
Michael Atherton is one of the most respected and decorated England cricketers who played 115 Tests and 54 ODIs from 1989 to 2001.
Atherton was in Pakistan in early March, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He was working on a documentary on the revival of cricket in Pakistan, which is likely to be aired as part of the national team’s build-up for the summer tour of England.
While speaking in a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) podcast, the former England captain said that staging the entire season of Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Pakistan will help in changing the perception about the country’s security situation.
“Well, you only have to look around: the crowds, enthusiasm and packed houses for every game in PSL. Importantly, all these foreign players will now know that it is safe here and they will be able to take that message to the players from their own countries,” said Atherton.
“I was in a café at a local hotel last night [March 8] and there were about eight to nine English players like Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara, Tom Banton, Lewis Gregory, Liam Dawson and they were all saying how much they’ve enjoyed the competition, the tournament’s standard has been great and they feel perfectly safe here. So, this message will get passed back and that will encourage more and more players and teams to come,” he added.
Atherton also applauded Pakistan cricket team’s competitiveness despite not being able to play at home for a significant period of time.
“It’s of great sadness that international cricket left Pakistan for the best part of seven or eight years after that attack in 2009. It could not have been easy from all kinds of perspectives to play in the UAE,” he said. “Players played in front of empty grounds and were constantly away from home. Which other team has had to play virtually 12 months a year on the road? The financial cost for the PCB must have been significant over that period.”
“Given all those disadvantages for Pakistan to remain competitive and for the game still to be widely followed here in Pakistan says a lot about the depth of feeling for the game here in this country. It is great see to cricket come back now,” he added.
The 52-year-old is also looking forward to watching Babar Azam bat, when Pakistan tours England in July this year, given the situation improves following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Babar Azam looks a fabulous player to me. He looks so skillful and the game looks so easy to him at times. I am very much looking forward to watching him play,” he said.