MCC’s overseas tours are always designed to ensure that the development of cricket is paramount in the country that the Club are visiting, but the recent visit to Pakistan could potentially deliver an immeasurable benefit to a region that has been bereft of international cricket for around a decade.
The tour to Pakistan – which saw a twelve-man squad win two out of the four fixtures played – was specifically designed to assist in bringing international cricket back to the country, following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.
MCC President Kumar Sangakkara was part of the Sri Lankan side that was attacked. The incident saw Pakistan having to play their home matches on neutral grounds in the UAE, and Test match cricket only returned to the country in October 2019 when Sri Lanka visited for two matches in what became a historic tour.
MCC – captained by Sangakkara - played four matches in Lahore, the first of which took place at the Gaddafi Stadium.
A crowd in excess of 18,000 turned up to see MCC defeat Lahore Qalandars, who were preparing for the Pakistan Super League, by four wickets in a T20 fixture. Ravi Bopara (42) and Samit Patel (31) were the main contributors with the bat in overturning a Lahore total of 135 for 5.
The action then switched to Aitchison College, where Pakistan Shaheens were the opponents in a 50-over match. Ross Whiteley (51) and Roelof van der Merwe (47 not out) were the top-scorers for MCC in a total of 204 for 9 but the hosts – Pakistan’s ‘A’ team – reached their target with five overs to spare.
Two successive T20 matches at Aitchison College followed in the coming days – a nine-run defeat to Pakistan’s domestic T20 champions Northern, and a comfortable 72-run victory over Multan Sultans, another team warming up for the PSL.
The media interest in the tour was significant, both in the UK and Pakistan, and indeed globally. For example, after the team trained at the Gaddafi Stadium, a press conference from Sangakkara was aired live by thirteen television channels.
During the tour, MCC attended an evening reception at the British High Commission in Lahore, hosted by Dr Christian Turner, British High Commissioner to Pakistan.
The squad also visited the historic Lahore Fort, which was built in 1566 and is spread over twenty acres. This was part of a mindful decision for the squad to be able to see some elements of the country – something that visiting cricketers have been restricted in doing in recent times, due to security fears.
"Security is on everybody's minds, but the provision was fantastic"
Guy Lavender, Chief Executive & Secretary of MCC led the tour and stressed that many people’s perception of Pakistan are very different to the reality. He said: “The people of Pakistan were incredibly welcoming. Security is on everybody's minds, but the provision was fantastic. We were looked after very well. We felt safe and secure.
“The perceptions were that it was going to be very different to how it is, but the enthusiasm for cricket is remarkable. There's a real desire for people to come and watch international cricket in Pakistan.
“We all want to see Pakistan, a great cricketing nation, host international cricket. Every team will need to make their own assessments and judgement, but we’re thrilled to report that our experience has been a very positive one.”
Kumar Sangakkara, MCC President said: “It was a huge privilege to captain the MCC side on this tour. For us to play cricket in support of Pakistan’s journey in encouraging the best international teams to play there again shows the global influence that the Club has.
“A strong Pakistan team playing international cricket at home is essential for world cricket, and I hope that this tour has gone some way to encouraging countries to consider touring the country.”
Further details regarding the tour can be found through the link provided below.