International cricket has returned to Pakistan with a three-match T20 series between the World XI and the hosts. Ahead of the historic Independence Cup opener on Tuesday, former ICC president and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) functionary Ehsan Mani spoke with The Indian Express, describing the event as a “very important step” and expressing his disappointment over India’s non-participation. Excerpts:
How important are these three T20s in the context of Pakistan cricket?
This is a very small, but very, very important step in getting international cricket back to Pakistan. While there had been one or two teams like Zimbabwe and Kenya that toured Pakistan before, this is the first time (since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka national cricket team) a mix of high-profile international players is coming to Pakistan. So it’s obviously very important.
How do you look at India’s non-participation in the World XI side?
I’m a little disappointed that there are no players from India. It would have been very nice. I know India is involved in the series against Australia, but it would have been nice to get the Indian players as well. Because you know, at the end of the day the game of cricket binds all of us together. There’s nothing like cricket to bring people together and help build relations between people and countries.
Do you agree that no Indian cricketer in the World XI team takes a little bit of gloss off the whole event?
I understand that there’s a series going on in India, so the Indian cricketers can’t participate. But some recently-retired Indian cricketers could have played in this series and there are (also) some Indian players who won’t be featuring in the shorter formats; the series between India and Australia. So there was ample room for some of them to participate (here).
But the BCCI decision related to Pakistan is always based on the government’s approval.
Look, Pakistan and India have been taking part in a lot of events outside full international cricket series. There have been bilateral trade (close to $3 billion) and cultural exchanges. Why is there an embargo on cricket? I think cricket is being used for political purposes, which is wrong.
How do you describe ICC chairman Shashank Manohar’s role to make this series happen?
I’m very pleased to see that Mr Manohar has come out very strongly, supporting and welcoming this. These are all good steps and I hope in time, sooner rather than later, there would be full teams from other countries coming to Pakistan. Mr Manohar is obviously doing the right things. Globalisation is important.
World XI captain Faf du Plessis has highly praised the security arrangements for this series. But it’s easier to provide head-of-state-like security cover for three T20 matches. A full bilateral series of longer duration would be tougher from the security point of view, isn’t it?
A lot of this security that they (World XI) are getting is over and above of what is required. It’s more to give them the comfort. The reality is that there’s no perceived security threat that one is concerned about. Of course, things can happen anywhere in the world. But in terms of security and the level of comfort (to touring teams), Pakistan is capable of holding international matches.