Recently, the MCC squad to tour Pakistan, a move that was long-awaited, was finally confirmed. What should prompt the cricket tragics to sport the widest possible smile is the very fact that a County-heavy or county-dominant squad if one might put it that way, is going to be led by one of the game’s finest stroke makers: Kumar Sangakkara.
That the MCC squad to tour Pakistan has been announced, has multiple connotations for the realm of the sport, and undoubtedly, great significance for one of the subcontinent’s noted forces in the game.
It was smiles galore last year- 2019- when, at the wake of the announcement of the impending tour of Sri Lanka to Pakistan there was finally relief that cricket would return to a country that has given the sport so much joy, and without a speck of doubt, countless legends. Imagine being kept locked up from the very meal that can nourish you in times of urgent need?
Undoubtedly, the moment you think of Pakistan cricket you are enamored by the feats of the great heroes of the halcyon days.
Whether one talks about Hanif Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Wasim Bari, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, or the stars from more recent eras- Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mohd. Yonus, or Younis Khan- Pakistan has contributed handsomely toward shaping the cricketing firmament.
And it doesn’t make the cricket purist any richer by stating the commonly understood that in stars like Babar Azam, there’s great promise for the game in the course of the future.
Against that narrative, that there was hardly any cricket played in the country for a long decade, exemplified by the horrific events of 2009 (when SL’s tour to Pakistan turned into a bloodied affair) hampered the game in more ways than one.
That the players’ safety and utter security is sacrosanct in the context of the game is unquestionable and cannot be taken lightly. But at the same time, the deadly events of 2009 didn’t make it any helpful for prospective teams and administrations to explore an opportunity of returning to Pakistan.
In some sense, it wasn’t too hard to understand why engaging in cricket in a region, where uncertainty, as experienced in the dreaded 2009 episode, still served a chilling reminder in the current context.
But thankfully, when the Sri Lankans toured Pakistan recently in 2019, it was a clear indication about improvements and that, things had begun again to fall into place.
The 3 ODIs and as many T20s played last year thanks to Sri Lanka agreeing to tour what might be called a controversy-plagued destination, especially from the island nation’s perspective, revived the dwindling fortunes that had kept Pakistan from hosting international sides.
Let alone a one-off tri-series contest, the sheer vacuum in hosting any side for even a bi-lateral series, for that matter turned Pakistan into as alien a destination for hosting any ICC event as is Chernobyl in the context of tourism.
Now that the custodian of cricket laws have decided to send a team to contest Pakistan for 3 matches in February comes as a major reprieve from what has been a punishing absence of cricket for the doting fans, whether in Lahore or Karachi.
Soon as the news regarding MCC squad for Pakistan tour was announced, there was, as expected, boundless joy. On top of that, that one of the game’s greats in Sangakkara is all set to lead a team dominated by county names, hailing from Warwickshire, Sussex, Somerset, among others makes the forthcoming contests a mouthwatering feast for cricket lovers.
What’s also known is that the MCC squad for Pakistan tour is expected to play two PSL teams (Pakistan Super League) that include- Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars.
Some of the exciting names from the English County circuit who are expected to star alongside Kumar Sangakkara- scorer of over 27,000 international runs- include Ravi Bopara (who switched from Essex to Sussex), Michael Burgess, Oliver-Hannon-Dalby, and Roelof van der Merwe.
That said, it is also expected that Fred Klaassen from The Netherland’s will also be participating in MCC Squad for Pakistan tour.
Kumar Sangakkara, also the head of the MCC, will be keen, one expects, to explore the challenge of once again scoring on tough sub-continental pitches, a prospect that, in the past served the cricket lover to boundless entertainment.
Cricbuzz quoted the phenomenal former Sri Lankan batsman saying, “It is hugely important to support cricket in countries such as Pakistan, and the PCB has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the international cricketing landscape since the tragic events of 2009,” MCC President Sangakkara said. “I am excited to be captaining MCC on the tour to Pakistan. With international cricket having returned for the first time in a decade, it is wonderful the Club is doing its part to strengthen cricket in Pakistan and I look forward to being part of the trip.”