x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pakistan all set to call the UAE their cricketing home once more

Emirates have all but sealed the deal for series against South Africa and Sri Lanka this year, writes Osman Samiuddin.

Pakistan played Australia at Sharjah Cricket Stadium last year.
Pakistan played Australia at Sharjah Cricket Stadium last year.

Pakistan will continue to use the UAE as a home for its cricket commitments, having all but sealed the deal for two series later this year against South Africa and Sri Lanka. Fans can expect up to 19 international games across the three formats from October onwards.

Though the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has not yet made an official announcement, The National understands that for the third straight season, Pakistan's home season will take place in the UAE. It will be the second visit each for South Africa and Sri Lanka; England are the other side Pakistan hosted here for a full series.

Officials from the PCB were in the UAE recently to discuss details with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). Talks covered a proposed itinerary as well as budgets and they left with an informal understanding that the games will be played here. It is believed that South Africa will be the first visitors, playing a series of two Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s across October and November.

After a short break in which Pakistan's players will return home to take part in a domestic Twenty20 competition, Sri Lanka will arrive for three more Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s from December. The PCB took out advertisements on Monday in local papers inviting sponsors for the series.

One of the reasons the board has not yet made a formal announcement is because they are still in the process of inking a new TV broadcast deal. Their last five-year deal, with Ten Sports, runs out this month and any new contract with any broadcaster would include these two series.

There has also been considerable administrative instability in recent weeks in the board. Najam Sethi, a senior journalist and recently caretaker chief minister of Punjab, took over as the interim head of the board on Monday.

He replaced Zaka Ashraf, who was suspended from the chairmanship by Islamabad High Court, for discrepancies in the process that appointed him chairman for four years earlier this year. The immediate priorities for Sethi include attending an International Cricket Council (ICC) annual meeting this week, overseeing the selection of a squad for a trip to the Caribbean and eventually paving the way for a properly elected head of the board.

Pakistan have been forced to play their cricket abroad since March 2009, after a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore as they were on their way to Gaddafi Stadium for a Test. Prospects for a return still look bleak, as Sethi acknowledged in his first press conference.

Events such as Saturday's killing of 10 foreign climbers in the north, he said, made it difficult to bring international cricket back to Pakistan, a task he said he would leave for a permanent chairman.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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