Former Pakistan batsman Ramiz Raja believes the recently concluded series against a World XI “will go a long way in cementing a positive perception” that regular international cricket can one day be played in the country again.
It’s been a memorable three and a half months for the 1992 world champions. As the lowest-ranked nation in the competition, they defied the odds by beating India to win their first ICC Champions Trophy in June.
Then last week, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) hosted their most high-profile international series since the 2009 militant attack on the touring Sri Lankan bus that left eight people dead, as the national team beat a star-studded World XI over three T20 matches in Lahore.
That World XI squad featured the likes of South Africa’s Hashim Amla and West Indies’ Darren Sammy with the PCB calling it the first step in bringing elite cricket back to Pakistan.
Raja, who played 57 Tests and 198 ODIs for Pakistan, believes it’s only a matter of time before more matches are hosted in his home nation.
“It’s not that far (from international cricket returning to Pakistan),” he told Sport360° at the t-Lounge by Dilmah at Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall on Wednesday.
“I think it will go a long way in promoting international cricket in Pakistan.
“International cricket being played in Pakistan had to happen one day because they were on the receiving end for almost eight years where some of these young guys were not able to play in front of their home fans.
“They had to prove to the world, that they couldn’t be sidelined. They are a fantastic team and there’s great talent.
“I’m sure there’s more to come. Sri Lanka are scheduled to play one T20 game while there are talks of West Indies playing a T20 series. From that point of view, I think the World XI series will go a long way in cementing a positive perception in favour of Pakistan.”
The 55-year-old also praised the World XI touring party for playing their part in making the trip to Lahore. “The first steps are always difficult to take but everyone went home extremely satisfied,” he said.
“Whatever interviews I read by the the World XI players suggested they were so happy to be part of a great relaunching process and be part of a historic event.
“They had a look at the security situation and the cricket situation, and the bigger picture. The bigger picture was that ‘we need you and you need us’. It’s good that they feel Pakistan cannot be left alone.
“We need to thank the players who came. There must’ve been pleadings from the family but they made the trip.”
With optimism high in the Pakistan camp, Raja said head coach Mickey Arthur has played a major role in turning things around.
The South African was appointed head coach in May last year and has helped breed consistency in all aspects of Pakistan’s play.
“What they have done differently under him is that everyone has bought over the idea of being fit,” the 1992 World Cup winner added.
“They are on the same page as Mickey Arthur. Their fitness has gone up and the performances have improved. They are finding some good young talent which is something they’ve done so well.”
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Pakistan cricket’s anti-corruption tribunal on Wednesday banned opener Khalid Latif for five years and fined him one million rupees ($9,489) over a spot-fixing case, the second casualty after teammate Sharjeel Khan was banned late last month.
“Latif is banned for five years and fined one million rupees after the proceedings of the case,” the three-member tribunal announced.
The 31-year-old has played five one-day internationals and 13 T20Is, the last of which was against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi in September 2016.
In August, Sharjeel was banned for five years, with two-and-a-half years suspended, for his role in the spot-fixing scandal.
Latif had been charged with breaching six clauses, including the serious offence of luring other players to take part in fixing.
The Pakistan cricket Board (PCB) provisionally suspended Latif and Sharjeel after they found evidence of spot-fixing during a Pakistan Super League (PSL) match between Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi in Dubai in February.
Anti Corruption Tribunal has found Khalid Latif guiltily of all charges, therefore has announced a ban of 5 years & a fine of PKR 1 Million
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) September 20, 2017
The board said Sharjeel and Latif met an alleged bookie and struck a deal. Based on the plan, Sharjeel — an aggressive batsman who scores quickly — agreed to play two dot balls after the first over in the match.
Although Latif did not play in that game, he was later charged with luring Sharjeel into the deal and not reporting the matter to the PCB anti-corruption unit.
Spot-fixing involves bets on the outcome of a particular passage of play, unlike match-fixing in which there is an attempt to prearrange the result of the match.
Both players were suspended provisionally at the time and withdrawn from the PSL.
The minimum punishment for the charges which Latif faced was a six-month suspension with a maximum of a life ban.
Under the PCB code players can appeal rulings before an independent arbitrator within 14 days of the decision.
Four other players — Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan, Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Nawaz — were also included in the investigation on multiple charges.
Irfan and Nawaz admitted not reporting the bookie’s offer. Irfan was banned for one year with six months suspended and fined one million rupees. Nawaz was banned for two months, with one suspended, and fined 200,0000 rupees.
Both are now free to play, while the cases against Hasan and Jamshed are continuing.
Latif’s lawyer Badre Alam repeatedly raised objections during the proceedings, and also filed a petition in the Lahore high court against the tribunal. But the pleas were rejected by the court.
Alam, who like Latif did not attend the announcement, rejected the verdict.
“The short decision proves that the tribunal is not impartial,” Alam told media. “They had made up their mind to punish Latif. We will decide our plans only after the detailed judgement comes.”
Latif had shown tremendous promise at an early age but has failed to make an impact at international level.
Having made his first class debut at 15, he led Pakistan to victory at the Junior World Cup in Bangladesh in 2004.
But once drafted to the Pakistan side for a one-day match against Zimbabwe in 2008, Latif could not cement his place on the national team.
Last year he appeared to have become a regular player in the Twenty20 squad, having scored a rapid 59 not out against England last year.
But the latest punishment looks set to all but end a career which had only briefly taken off.
Pakistan’s recent win against the World XI in the Independence Cup has propelled the team to the second spot in the ICC T20I country rankings.
The hosts had beaten the star-studded World XI 2-1 in the three T20Is played at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.
New Zealand continue to lead the rankings in the T20I format with 125 points while Pakistan sit in second spot with 121 points.
Babar Azam’s Man of the Series performance in the Independence Cup has seen him climb 21 spots to a career-best sixth position of the ICC T20I batsmen rankings.
Pakistan has jumped to the second spot in the latest ICC MRF Tyres T20I Team Rankings https://t.co/8ZC25mWK6C
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) September 17, 2017
The 22-year-old batsman had scores of 86, 45 and 48 in the three-match series where he finished as the highest run-scorer with 179 runs.
His teammate Ahmed Shehzad finished as the second highest run-scorer with 171 runs to his kitty, has also jumped nine spots to feature in the 22nd position.
Meanwhile in the bowler’s rankings, Pakistan spinner Imad Wasim continues to maintain his top spot ahead of Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
Teenage leg-spinning sensation Shadab Khan has made an impressive 32-spots leap to attain the 66th position in the rankings table.
England’s loss to West Indies in the sole T20I clash between the two sides at Chester-le-street has cost the team dearly in the updated rankings. England have slipped from second spot to the fourth with West Indies climbing to the third spot behind Pakistan.
West Indies batsman Elvin Lewis’ 51-run knock in the win has seen him gain one place to attain a career-high ranking of three in latest rankings for batsmen.
India meanwhile occupy the fifth spot in team rankings with skipper Virat Kohli maintaining his top spot in the rankings for batsmen.