Cricket to return to Pakistan?
Dubai - Pakistan's new cricket chief Zaka Ashraf Monday vowed to bring international cricket back to the country, suggesting the game's governing body could form a board to assess security before teams' tours.
International cricket has been suspended in Pakistan since terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March 2009, which left eight people dead and seven visiting players and their assistant coach injured.
Those incidents, coupled with continued security fears in Pakistan, have led to refusals by international teams to tour the troubled country, where the national army is fighting militancy and a resurgency by the Taliban.
Ashraf, who replaced Ijaz Butt as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman last month, said his first task is to bring international cricket back to the country.
"We are doing our level best to bring international cricket back to Pakistan," Ashraf, who met International Cricket Council (ICC) officials, told AFP. "I have suggested the ICC should form a board to assess security in Pakistan."
After the terrorist attacks of 2009, the ICC was forced to strip Pakistan of its share of matches in the 2011 World Cup.
Sri Lanka also turned down an invitation to tour Pakistan after a military base was attacked in Karachi in May this year, forcing them to play the series in the United Arab Emirates.
Ashraf, regarded as a close friend of Pakistan president Asif Zardari, said he can take help from the government on implementing security for international teams.
"Once the ICC forms a security board we can also take help from the government and implement the best arrangements for international teams," said Ashraf.
Ashraf said Pakistani fans are deprived of international cricket.
"What happened in Pakistan was disappointing and that left millions of fans in our country deprived of international cricket and we now seek help from the cricket world to restore activity so that our fans get to see that," said Ashraf.
International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who met Ashraf on Monday, said the ICC was doing its best to revive cricket in Pakistan.
"It was something that could not get much time (for consideration) due to the spot-fixing issue, but now in order to have some teams playing in Pakistan the security situation has to be considered," said Lorgat.
Ashraf said he has also written to Indian cricket chiefs to revive what he termed the "mother of all cricket" series.
"I have written to Narayan Srinivasan (President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India) to revive the series between the two countries because it's a game and should be kept away from politics," said Ashraf.
It is a move backed by Lorgat.
"India-Pakistan is a seriously important fixture. It is also something which Ashraf has uppermost in his mind and we will support that. We can make a request to India, it is up to India to decide where they want to play."
Ashraf said he has also met Bangladesh Cricket Board officials to break the ice.
"I have also met Bangladesh officials and in order to break the ice. I have invited them to tour Pakistan and I hope they reply in a positive way."