Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia take steps to return to Pakistan for Test cricket
Australia have not toured since 1998 but plans for an 'A' tour in the next three years gather pace as a key milestone in the eventual return of the Test team
19 November 2019, 08:48 PM AEST
It has been more than two decades since Australia toured Pakistan but the wheels are in motion for that streak to be snapped in the next three years.
That's the aim of both Cricket Australia and the Pakistan Cricket Board, whose chief executive Wasim Khan is in Australia hoping to convince the Australian players the Asian nation is once again safe to host regular international cricket.
Khan is keen for an Australia A side to visit Pakistan before the Test sides are due to meet again away from Australia soil in early 2022, according to the ICC Future Tours Programme.
"A lot of these things are baby steps. We need discuss timings of a potential 'A' tour, the length of the tours and where it's played," Wasim told cricket.com.au.
"It gives us an opportunity to close a gap a little bit because we have two-and-a-half years before Australia are here (in Pakistan).
"Kevin Roberts (CA chief executive) and Sean Carroll (CA Head of Security) came out to Pakistan just to have a look and feel and understand the landscape in Pakistan around security.
"The major cities have now been safe for a very long time … this is all about building confidence with players and CA that Pakistan is a safe place to come.
"Kevin and I acknowledged that's what we want together over that period of time because CA is committed to see sustainable cricket back in Pakistan. We'll work towards with that."
The 2009 terror attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore put an immediate stop on Pakistan playing on home soil, but in recent years several nations – including West Indies and Sri Lanka – and a World XI side have toured the war-torn country playing white-ball cricket.
But perhaps the strongest catalyst for international cricket to come back to Pakistan permanently arrived earlier this week when it was confirmed Test cricket will return to Pakistan next month when Sri Lanka visit to play two Test matches.
"We've got a population of 220 million passionate cricket fans," Wasim said.
"For Test cricket to come back after such a long period is a huge lift for the whole country, not just for cricket.
"We need it to sustain us both financially and from a cricket perspective.
"Azhar Ali is going to be stepping out to captain in the first Test on Thursday, he's played 60-odd Test matches and has never played a Test match in Pakistan. That's a sad statistic.
"We need youngsters being able to see their local heroes play and relate to them.
"We have lost a generation over the past 10 years who have not seen international cricket consistently being played."
Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 due to security concerns but the visit by Roberts and Carroll last month has the prospect of an Australian team playing again in Pakistan a real possibility.
However, the safety of the players remains the number one priority.
"We share Pakistan’s desire for international cricket to return to their country and we’re encouraged to see Sri Lanka agreeing to a two-Test series there next month," Roberts said.
"We won’t be rushing into a decision. We will continue to monitor the situation, consult with experts and evolve the discussions from my recent visit to Islamabad. First and foremost in our thinking is the safety of our players and staff.
"That said, things appear to be heading in the right direction as Pakistan’s home Test series against Sri Lanka would suggest. I hope we do return there for the sake of world cricket and Australia's important relationship with Pakistan."
Khan will speak to the Australian Cricketers' Association in Melbourne, where the players' union's new president Shane Watson will be a key figure in providing assurances about the safety of competing in Pakistan.
Watson is one of the few Australians to play in Pakistan in the past 10 years when he took part in the Pakistan Super League, which played eight matches in Karachi last February.
The seasoned allrounder, who along with Ben Cutting and Chris Lynn has entered into next month's PSL draft, was quoted as saying it was "one of the safest places in the world with that kind of security around", which, ironically, may have gone too far.
"The one bit of feedback (from visiting players) is perhaps the security is a bit too much," Wasim said.
"We'd rather have it that way than the other way.
"When Sri Lanka toured about a month or so ago they went to restaurants, shopping malls, we facilitated all of those things while they with us to try and keep a sense of normality as much as possible.
"We have got 260 players from 15 countries who are registered for the Pakistan Super League draft which is in a few weeks' time.
"That's a testament, hopefully, that the players are starting to see a sense of normality in Pakistan and they're happy to tour."
Khan says a power of work has been put into the security around visiting teams, as shown but the increasing number touring sides.
"We've had the likes of Zimbabwe, the World XI, the West Indies men and women on T20 tours and we hosted Sri Lanka about a month and a half ago in both T20s and ODIs," he said.
"What we did was evidence once again that we've got high quality security measures in place and just as importantly we can implement them to a high standard.
"We're very grateful for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board and to the players who came during the white-ball series who went away and actually spoke about the positive experiences and how great it was and encouraging others to come back."
Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.
Warm-up match: Australia A v Pakistan, match drawn
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 15-16, WACA Ground
First Test: November 21-25, Gabba (Seven, Fox & Kayo)