Kumar Sangakkara hopes England resume Pakistan tours as international cricket slowly returns to country

Will Macpherson
AFP via Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara, who is leading an MCC tour of Pakistan, believes it is time for England to return to the country.

Sangakkara, who played almost 600 internationals, was on the Sri Lanka team bus that was attacked by gunmen in Lahore in 2009, killing eight people. The attack led to an extended period of exile, with Pakistan playing ‘home’ series abroad, mainly in the UAE.

But the game is slowly returning to the country and Sangakkara thinks it is time for countries like England and Australia to tour again.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have played Tests in Karachi and Rawalpindi in the last two months, while the entire ­Pakistan Super League will take place in the country for the first time.

Fifteen English players are involved, including World Cup winners Jason Roy and Moeen Ali.

An MCC squad captained by club president Sangakkara and containing county players, including Sussex’s Ravi Bopara and Warwickshire skipper Will Rhodes, were playing the last of their four matches in Pakistan on Wednesday.

Sangakkara says there is “almost a desperation for international cricket” in Pakistan and described it as “a regular, thoroughly enjoyable cricket tour”.

England last toured Pakistan in 2005, with their two most recent tours taking place in the UAE. The ICC’s Future Tours Programme has them down to tour again at the end of 2022.

“It has been a long time,” Sangakkara told Standard Sport. “I think it is time that all countries return to playing in Pakistan.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have both played matches in Pakistan over recent months (AFP via Getty Images)

"The mechanisms by which they come to that arrangement might be different for each country, the length of tour different for each country, but it is a premise that needs to be visited and revisited until they do come back.

"With the leadership of Wasim Khan (Pakistand Cricket Board) and Imran Khan as Prime Minister, special efforts are being made to try to make life as easy as possible.

"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.”

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