For a long time, touring Pakistan meant a trip to the UEA...Pakistan's home away from home.
Following the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 which claimed the lives of 8 people, international cricket has been in exile, however that may be coming to an end.
We've recently seen Bangladesh and Sri Lanka return to Pakistan a decade after the terrorist attacks, including playing tests in Karachi and Rawalpindi. Although the squads were heavily diminished, with 10 Sri Lankan players choosing not to tour based on security concerns.
England haven't toured Pakistan since 2005, but Kumar Sangakkara (who was on the bus that was attacked back in 2009) and who's currently leading an MCC tour of the country thinks Pakistan are ready to welcome back world cricket power-houses:
"They will bend over backwards to accommodate foreign sides. They understand the importance of cricket coming back.
“I think for sides to come here and play like we have will alter perceptions. That first step needs to be taken and I hope one of those countries, maybe England or maybe Australia, will make that first move.
"A strong Pakistan team playing cricket at home is essential for world cricket.”
Under the ICC future tours program, England are set to tour Pakistan in 2022, for the first time since 2005.
ECB CEO Tom Harrison has recently been in Pakistan during the Sri Lanka tour:
“We had a real look at the incredible work that is going on in Lahore with the Safe City Project and the extraordinary reaction to past incidents that has been put in place here. And that’s been incredibly impressive,”
“Now we need to take the entire information home and start building towards a plan to put in place over the next few years to make it safe for us to consider coming here and fulfilling that obligation in the second half of 2022.”
I'd love to see first-class international cricket back in Pakistan permanently. The Pakistan population absolutely loves cricket and the passion they show in supporting their team should be on show to the world. It's a cricket-mad country that has been starved of its team for far too long.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have set the foundation, but there is still a way to go. Even though Sri Lanka did tour, they did so without some of their very best players. England won't want to do that for several reasons, the new World Test Championship and commercial being two of the main ones.
Security is much improved, but you only need to look at the travel advice from the government to understand that there is still a lot of questions to be answered. I have no doubt that the England team will receive presidential security, but what about touring fans? England have a strong following abroad, and you have to consider the safety of the fans as well.
We've seen some incredible tours to Pakistan, I still remember that superb 193 from Marcus Trescothick in Multan in 2005, and although I never saw it, David Gower's 152 in 1984.
You can't talk about touring Pakistan without mentioning the 2000 series, a 1-0 win with victory in the dark in Karachi, England's first series victory in Pakistan for 39 years. Graham Thorpe seeing England home with a 64* in the 4th inning.
There is no doubt that world cricket is much better with cricket in Pakistan, however, you can't rush these decisions. I'm sure that England will research every single angle of security, but they have to talk to players, they have to talk to fans and they have to do what's best for the England cricket team.
If at the end of the consultation period, it's decided that it's safe enough to tour then I'll be delighted. Helping bring international cricket back to Pakistan would be a great feeling as an England fan, Pakistan deserves cricket, and who wouldn't want to see the England test team being challenged in difficult conditions.