x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Butt prefers England to Emirates

Pakistan would favour England over the UAE as the team's official second home while they are unable to play in their own country.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND // Pakistan would favour England over the UAE as the team's official second home while they are unable to play in their own country because of security concerns, Salman Butt, the captain, said yesterday. Since the outrage in Lahore in March last year when Sri Lanka's team bus and that of the match officials were attacked by gunmen, Pakistan have had to play matches at neutral venues.

They have used Abu Dhabi and Dubai as alternative home venues in one-day internationals (ODI) and will play South Africa in one Twenty20, five ODIs and two Tests between October 27 and November 25. Pakistan also played a "home" Test series against Australia in England this month in which their pace bowlers took advantage of overcast conditions to help them secure a 1-1 series draw. "It's a lovely place to play cricket, there are a lot of Pakistanis living over here, so the support is good," Butt told reporters at Trent Bridge where his team start a four Test series against England today.

"The guys love their cricket in England." "The unfortunate part is there are only six months of the season here so we might have to go to other places as well," Butt added. "Of course, the number one priority would be to play in Pakistan. But with the unfortunate situation which is currently going on, I think England is the best option." Mushtaq Ahmed, England's Pakistani spin coach, continually hopes Test cricket will return to his native Pakistan. He accepts that, after the attack on the Sri Lanka team which killed eight people, it was hard to envisage when it may be viable to arrange tours and series there again.

A peaceful World Cup elsewhere on the sub-continent next year - Pakistan has had to forfeit its initial status as co-host - will be an obvious step in the right direction. Even so, there appeared more hope than expectation in his voice when Mushtaq assessed when international cricket might be able to return to his country. "It's very hard to tell. Maybe in six months, or a year, but perhaps maybe more than that. I do hope that the World Cup can go very smoothly."

Mushtaq has no qualms with cricket's decision to stay away from Pakistan since the Lahore attack. "After what happened to the Sri Lankan team in the attack in 2009, we lost all the cricket - with all the teams refusing to come to play Pakistan, which was fair enough," he said. "The Pakistani people are very disappointed, and the Pakistani cricketers cannot play in front of their home crowd. "As a cricketer and a Pakistani, you get disappointed. That is why I want to be part of this campaign. I want to spread the word - that cricket is a game where we can bring people together.

"We want to convey the message locally and all over the world, wherever cricket is being watched. If you can change two kids from the street, to make sure they know what is wrong and right, that is a great step. The majority are looking for peace." Mushtaq's faith has helped to convince him he must try to make a difference. And the 40-year-old ex-Test leg-spinner is backing the "Not In My Game" campaign.

"As a role model, you can inspire people to come and support the event," he said. "This is how you can change people, give that message. We need to stand strong against those acts, so come and support this campaign. We are looking for peace. The prophet Mohammad said, 'If you kill a man, you kill mankind'. You can change lives with the right messages." * Agencies