KARACHI: Over the years, venues in the UAE have become ‘home’ centres for Pakistan cricketers.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have hosted numerous matches — Tests, One-day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals — especially after the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore that turned Pakistan into a no-go zone for foreign players.
Overall, it has been a convenient arrangement for Pakistan’s cricket authorities apart from one major aspect — it’s not cost effective.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has seldom managed to make substantial profits from various home series in the UAE. In fact, it even struggles to break even.
The fact that UAE is expensive has now forced PCB chiefs to seriously consider the idea of taking its home matches elsewhere.
Sri Lanka, it seems, is being seen as the best alternative which is why the Board is mulling over the idea of holding this year’s home series against the West Indies there.
It isn’t a new venue for Pakistan as they have hosted a few of their matches in the pearl island before and if things work out then they would stage the Caribbean side there this October for two Tests and six limited-overs internationals.
“PCB is not generating enough revenue from its home series therefore we are looking at the option of hosting West Indies in Sri Lanka. The board is doing its homework in this regard,” PCB Executive Committee Chairman Najam Sethi told the BBC.
“We need to see whether the grounds will be available in the Island and also if the weather will suit us.”
Australia are the only team set to tour Sri Lanka this year, between July and September. After Sri Lanka are due to travel to Zimbabwe, leaving the island nation’s grounds free of international commitments.
If the series is held in Sri Lanka, it remains to be seen whether it will include the day-night Test the PCB has proposed to the West Indies Cricket Board.
The idea behind playing a Test under lights was to attract bigger crowds in the UAE, where Pakistan’s five-day cricket is generally played out in front of empty stands.
West Indies’ most recent tour to Sri Lanka saw them lose the Test series 2-0 and the ODIs 3-0 to the hosts, but they squared the T20 series 1-1.
Pakistan previously used Sri Lanka as a neutral venue when they hosted Australia for one Test in Colombo in 2002, a match Australia won by 41 runs despite Shoaib Akhtar’s memorable five-wicket haul.
The other two Tests of the series were played in Sharjah.
Pakistan hoped to host India in a short limited-over series in Sri Lanka in December last year, but the Indian government didn’t give approval owing to political tensions with Pakistan.
Since 2000, Pakistan have used the UAE, Kenya, Sri Lanka and England as neutral venues.
If Pakistan does not host West Indies in the UAE, the only chance for the fans in the Emirates to see Pakistan players will come in the Pakistan Super League that is tentatively scheduled for February next year.
However the PCB is also planning to host the final of the tournament in Lahore and will offer players more money as an incentive.
“We want to have final of the next PSL in Pakistan and we will propose it to the players. We’ll ask them if they can play the final in Lahore,” Sethi, also the chairman of PSL, said. “PCB is ready if the players want more lucrative deals to play in Lahore.”