Teams should consider playing in Pakistan, says Kumar Sangakkara
Image: ICC

After the successful week-long tour of Lahore, Marylebone Cricket Club’s president Kumar Sangakkara said he would love if more teams consider touring Pakistan to bring international cricket back in the country.

“We would love for teams to consider coming here so that international cricket can finally come back to Pakistan in full force,” Sangakkara said in the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) podcast.

Sangakkara captained the club’s touring squad to Pakistan that arrived in Lahore on February 13 to play a 50-over and three T20-over matches. Over the course of their stay, the visitors explored the city by playing golf, visiting the historic Lahore Fort and enjoying dinners across Lahore.

“It’s been a long time since I came here and it has been even longer for the MCC. For us, it has been about coming here and playing cricket in support of Pakistan’s journey of getting international cricket back,” Sangakkara said.

“It’s important that, when you are in a country on a tour, you’re not confined to a hotel, but you can go around and enjoy the city and the country you’re in,” he added.

Recalling his cricket playing days, the most Test run-scorer for Sri Lanka said he remembers all the matches played in Lahore. Sangakkara scored 12,400 Test runs in 134 games for the Islanders with an average of 57.40. He also featured in 404 ODIs and amassed 14,234 runs including 25 hundred and 93 half-centuries. In 2015, Sangakkara bid adieu the Test cricket.

“I remember all those matches that I’ve played here but it’s always special to come back and revisit it. We never expected such a big crowd for a first game against the Qalandars. When we got to the ground, we had almost 19,000 people, hungry to watch some cricket,” he said.

In 2009, the Sri Lankan team was on their way to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for a Test match with Pakistan when terrorists from the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) fired indiscriminately at their bus. The attack left eight people dead and injured seven Sri Lankan players and staff.

Ever since the incident, no cricket team toured Pakistan to play a cricket series, however, the landscape changed last year as Sri Lanka paid a visit to the country to play a series across formats. After that, even Bangladesh toured Pakistan.

In the last three months, Sri Lanka has played two Tests – in Rawalpindi and Karachi – and Bangladesh has been here twice for a three-match T20I series and a Test in Rawalpindi.