Australia to send women, army cricket teams to Pakistan: envoy

ISLAMABAD: In a major breakthrough that could help revive international cricket in Pakistan, Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward on Monday said that his country would send their top women and army cricketers by next year.

The development has come five years after militants attacked the visiting Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Millions of cricket-crazy fans have not witnessed any international cricket action in the country since the March 2009 attack.

Pakistan have been compelled to play all their home series at neutral venues, mostly in the UAE, as almost all foreign sport teams including those of cricket have avoided touring the country due to security concerns.

Speaking to Dawn.com over telephone today, High Commissioner Heyward expressed his disappointment over the more than five-year absence of international sport in the country.

“This is really unfortunate that international teams are not visiting Pakistan,” said the high commissioner and hoped for an early revival of the sport in the cricket-mad country.

He said that authorities in his country were working closely with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in this regard. “We intend to send our top women players to play against Pakistan women cricket team,” he said.

Heyward added that Australia’s Army team would also be seen playing against Pakistan Army team in 2015.

It is pertinent to mention that Kenya’s men team is also scheduled to visit Pakistan in December this year. The tour of Kenya is part of a campaign launched by the PCB to revive international cricket in Pakistan.

Even before the attacks on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, players’ safety had been an issue in Pakistan which has faced a homegrown Taliban insurgency since joining hands with the United States after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 over security fears.

They were due to tour in October 2002 but the series was played in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates after a suicide bombing outside the hotel of the New Zealand team forced them to cut short their tour in May that year.

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