‘Emotional moment’ as Tests return to Pak soil

Rawalpindi: The return of Test cricket to Pakistani soil is an emotional occasion, captain Azhar Ali said on Tuesday but that will not come in the way of his team's efforts to make amends for a disastrous tour of Australia.

Pakistani players will play Test cricket at home after a gap of 10 years when they take on Sri Lanka in a two-Test series starting here on Wednesday. A 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team had led to a freeze on cricket in Pakistan, which has been playing its home matches on neutral venues.

"All the players are very emotional about this Test series. It is great to be back to our home grounds and I just hope that Test cricket returns regularly to Pakistan now," Azhar told a media conference.

Azhar also conceded that the series is a make-or-break situation for his team it has not been playing well in Test cricket for some time now. Pakistan lost 0-2 to Australia.

— Arthur factor —

Sri Lankan Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne feels the presence of former Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur in their camp will be a "big advantage".

Arthur, who was appointed the head coach of Sri Lanka last week, held the same position in Pakistan from 2016 until the end of this year's ODI World Cup in July.

"Mickey is with us and previously he was the coach of the Pakistan team as well so it is a positive thing for us that he knows the Pakistan team very closely and that has given us a lot of confidence for this series," Karunaratne said.

However, the skipper said the onus will be on the Sri Lankan players to execute their plans properly. "His presence is a big advantage to us as he knows each and every player very closely. How they think. How they prepare. But we have to do things right in the middle and implement our plans properly."

— No more neutral venue —

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani has made it clear that the national cricket team will no longer play any of their home matches in a bilateral series on a neutral venue.

"I think we have faced enough problems due to international cricket not being played at home. We have now taken all steps to create a safe environment for touring teams and we will not play our home series at any neutral venues now," Mani told 'Samaa' TV channel.

He also expressed his disappointment that India has steadfastly refused to play bilateral cricket with Pakistan in prevailing conditions.

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