RAWALPINDI, DEC 10 – Wednesday, December 11 will be a historic day in Pakistan cricket. When the first ball is bowled at Pindi Cricket Stadium it will mark the return of Test cricket in the country for over ten years.While the whole nation is waiting for the momentous occasion, former players are elated at Pakistan’s return to the Test map and have expressed their joy.Rashid Latif, who played three Tests against Sri Lanka in 1994 and 2002, said: “I was not born when Pakistan played their first-ever Test at home, but I have no doubts the fans and followers of that era must have felt the same as I am feeling today. It is a great feeling.
“Ten years is a long wait and it is about to end, I can’t wait for the first ball to be bowled.
“I am especially happy for the next generation of cricketers as they will now be able to see their Test cricketers in action at their home grounds and understand why Test cricket is so critical to the global reputation and standing of the team and the players.
“Likewise, the present day cricketers will also get the real feel of Test cricket when they will play in front of their fans, families and media, which will give them that extra motivation they have been missing while playing offshore.”
Moin Khan, who captained Pakistan in the March 2000 Test against Sri Lanka in Karachi which Pakistan won by 222 runs, said: “This series will not only mark the return of Test cricket in the country, but will also initiate the process of Pakistan’s ascendency in the pinnacle format of the game. You have to play regularly at your home grounds to become a force to be reckoned with which was something Pakistan missed for over 10 years.
“We all fell in love with this game after watching the greats of ours times before our own eyes. Lot of us used to miss schools, colleges or universities to watch Test cricket and catch a glimpse of stars like Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and so many others.
“Though I don’t condone bunking schools now, but that culture will be back when younger kids and teenagers will fill in the stands to watch top-class players like Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah.
“While I thank Sri Lanka for breaking the ice, I will not shy away from appreciating the hard work of the PCB who made this happen. A lot must have happened behind the scenes, which we are not aware of, but the results do indicate that their efforts have come to fruition.”
Former captain Shahid Afridi, who played a Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo in March 2006, said: “I would like to thank the Sri Lanka cricket board for sending their team for the Test series, and I also want to thank the PCB for their efforts in ensuring the series takes place in Pakistan. It’s due to the PCB’s untiring efforts and resolve that Test cricket is being restored in the country.
“Countries and boards must always support each other. In the past we have stood firm with Sri Lanka in all our cricket commitments and I am happy they have reciprocated our support.
“Fans want to see Test cricket since it is the ultimate and most historic format of the game. I am sure all stakeholders have made adequate arrangements to make the occasion successful. I hope the fans have an easy passage to the stadium and can get to enjoy the game.
“I wish the very best to both teams and also wish the best to PCB and hope they make this a memorable event and occasion for all cricket fans.”
Mohammad Yousuf, who featured in seven home Tests against Sri Lanka said: “It is indeed a great occasion, Pakistan is a sporting nation and we love cricket. Sri Lanka team coming to Pakistan for Test matches is a big achievement and fantastic news for cricket fans who can see their heroes play in front of them.
“I have some wonderful memories of playing cricket in Pakistan, I really hope this series will turnout well and we will see some good quality Test cricket which will be enjoyed by all.”
Former captain Aamir Sohail said: “I am delighted and excited to see Test cricket back in Pakistan after almost a decade. I take this opportunity to urge all the cricket fans in Rawalpindi and Karachi to fill the stadiums and let the world know how much cricket means to us and how much we have missed it.
“I wish both the teams best of luck. Let cricket and Pakistani people be the winner.”
Shoaib Malik, who featured in the last completed Test in Pakistan in March 2009, said: “Test cricket coming back to Pakistan is quite an emotional moment for me. When I retired from red-ball cricket, I knew I was letting go, at a certain level, the essence of cricket.
“I knew Test cricket will return to Pakistan Inshallah but now that it’s here, I’m feeling very emotional.
“I wish I was there in person to witness this but also see our stadiums filled with fans and enjoy a long form of cricket in this era of fast life.
“I must thank the Sri Lankan team and the Sri Lankan Board for taking this step and playing an instrumental role in bringing international cricket back to our country and to our people. We will never forget, may that time never come, but Inshallah you will find us hand in hand with Sri Lanka and their people in times of need.”
Umar Gul, who played alongside Shoaib Malik in the Test remembered for Younis Khan’s triple-century in Karachi in 2009, said: “I am extremely excited to see Test cricket returning to Pakistan. I welcome the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan. I want to thank them for their help in the revival of Test cricket in our beloved country.
“It was always an honour for me to play international cricket in Pakistan and I can’t wait to see this Test series. I request all cricket fans to support both teams since cricket will be the eventual winner.”