Security concerns force switch. Test matches, one-day games and Twenty20 events to be played in the Emirates.
UAE to be the 'home' venue for Pakistan
The Emirates emerged as the home of Pakistan's international cricket side for the foreseeable future yesterday, as officials attempted to counter a growing financial crisis caused by the poor security situation in the south Asian country. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced that they had signed a three-year contract worth US$9million (Dh33m) to play a series of one-day and Twenty20 matches at the new cricket stadium being constructed in Dubai. With teams reluctant to tour Pakistan because of heightened concerns over terrorist attacks, the PCB also revealed that they had invited the West Indies to play two Test matches in Abu Dhabi. A three-match one-day series at the capital's Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium had already been scheduled for November. Pakistan have not played a Test or one-day series against a major cricket playing nation this year. Only the minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have played in the country in 2008, while their last home Test series was against South Africa in Oct 2007. Australia cancelled a proposed tour earlier this year while the ICC Champions Trophy, which was due to take place this month, was also postponed. The fears of many of many cricketers were further heightened last weekend when at least 60 people were killed and 260 injured in a bomb attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, where international cricket teams often stay when they are playing in or close to the Pakistan capital. The PCB have lost millions of dollars in revenue from the cancellation of matches and believe that the only way the sport can survive in Pakistan is if they are willing to play at a neutral venue. In the past, Pakistan have been reluctant to play "home" matches in neutral countries but they believe that this needs to change given that there appears to be no let up in the worsening security situation, particularly with violence spreading from areas bordering Afghanistan to the rest of the country. "I think we now need to deal with this issue of teams not touring because of security concerns more maturely," said Shafqat Naghmi, the chief executive of the PCB. "We must also look at other options in given conditions. Cricket needs to go on in Pakistan and we cannot go without international cricket for long. It is imperative that the cricketers play. "We have told the West Indies that we are now willing to consider the two Tests in Abu Dhabi." Referring to the three-year deal with Dubai Sports City, where matches will take place in a new 25,000 capacity cricket stadium, Naghmi revealed that Pakistan would play a tri-series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh next April as well as a series of T20 matches against international rivals. "It is a lucrative contract which will help in overcoming the loss after the postponement of Champions Trophy," he said. "We will be generating enough funds besides having a definite programme of our team's participation in international cricket." Pakistan's last Test was in India in Dec 2007 and their next Test series is in Jan 2009, when they host India. "We don't have much cricket in coming months but 2009 is going to be a packed season for us," added Naghmi. firstname.lastname@example.org