By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's been a whirlwind four months for Pakistan cricket. After a Tri-Series win against Australia and Zimbabwe in which Pakistan won four out of five games and a sweep of a home T20 series against the West Indies, the team will have to wait until the end of the year to commence another international tour. Pakistan will be in Zimbabwe until the end of July for a short ODI series. After capturing the 2017 Champions Trophy in unlikely fashion one summer ago, the time has finally come for Pakistan to host a full tour. The problem? No one else is playing ball.
Due to an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan cricket has paid a heavy price. The country lost its joint hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup and was forced to play its tours in the UAE. The majority of more than 193 million people were forced to watch their cricket team play hosts in a foreign land. The ICC did not create a formal path to cricket returning to Pakistan. It's been a long journey back to a semblance of respectability, but the journey cannot be completed until a team runs the complete gauntlet in Pakistan.
The West Indies stepped up and came to Pakistan for a short T20 series in April and Zimbabwe did an ODI tour in 2015. Prior to that, Pakistan hadn't hosted a T20 international since 2008. The last ODI match? Well, the Sri Lankans did end up playing five matches back in 2009. Sri Lanka also drew two Test matches in that 2009 tour.
Pakistan has a young, exciting squad that's begun to take off since the Champions Trophy win. 23-year old Babar Azam has been out with a fractured arm, but he is tied with four other players as the fastest to reach 1,000 ODI runs. Azam is expected to return soon. Fakhar Zaman seems to have a knack for producing big innings in the biggest games. After a century in the Champions Trophy final against India, he ripped 91 runs from 46 deliveries to lead Pakistan past Australia in the Tri-Series win. Zaman led the team with 278 runs across five games. Asif Ali continued his impressive form in the T20 format and could make a jump to the ODI ranks soon. The bowling, Pakistan's calling card, is in good hands with the return of Mohammad Amir. Suspensions, spot fixing allegations and injuries wrecked his early years, but the 26-year old still has a lot of cricket left. 19-year old Shadab Khan took five wickets in the Harare tour, including two in the final.
These five players form a promising core for Pakistan going forward, but they won't be on display again until December after wrapping up a short ODI series by the end of July. Pakistan cricket has gained tremendous energy in the last four months and it shouldn't die because nobody will commit to a tour in the subcontinent. The West Indies and Zimbabwe showed that any concerns over security are misplaced. It took a long time for Pakistan to reach this position. The country has done everything right to get cricket back in. Now it just needs a team to step up.