Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ramiz Raja has called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) to be “up front” and “proactive” in resolving India and Pakistan’s long-running cricketing dispute.
In an exclusive interview with The National, Raja said the ICC had been “compromised” by India’s growing wealth and influence in the game, preventing them from having the necessary conversations that could result in both national teams playing in each other’s countries.
“They are circumspect and not forthcoming because India produces the entire ICC wealth, and so their position, unfortunately, is compromised as a result,” the former Pakistan batsman said.
“I don't think it's going to change unless we have a resolve and commitment in every cricket board and our cricket fraternity works towards making it happen.”
This comes after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said they would not travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, calling for it to be played in a neutral location. Raja and the PCB have since said they would potentially boycott the World Cup in India. Both ODI competitions are due to take place next year.
Pakistan and India have contested plenty of games outside their respective countries in recent years, though, most recently the memorable T20 World Cup encounter in Melbourne in October which India won on the final ball.
“Of course we need to play each other," Raja said. "Who wouldn't want to watch India versus Pakistan? There shouldn't be an excuse for Pakistan not playing in India or India not playing in Pakistan."
Raja was speaking with The National as Pakistan hosted England in Multan in the second Test of a three-match series. It is the first time the two sides have competed in this format in Pakistan since 2005.
International cricket has only recently returned to Pakistan with full force, following the 2009 attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.
The second Test against England has been played with increased security, with thousands of police officers deployed in and around the city and travelling England fans only permitted to travel between locations with a police escort.
It has also made access to the ground for local fans difficult, and as such the attendance has been effected.
Pakistan v India at T20 World Cup 2022
“I think we're still about two, three years away from lowering our guard," Raja said. "I'm very comfortable that at least cricket is happening in Pakistan.”
Since the introduction of the Indian Premier League (IPL), of which Pakistani players have been banned since 2009, Indian cricket has grown exponentially in popularity and wealth.
Even though the Pakistan national team has performed well at the elite level – finishing fifth in the ODI World Cup in 2019 and runners-up in the T20 World Cup in Australia this year – Raja believes Pakistani cricket has suffered.
“It's a miracle really, how we have remained afloat and relevant," he said. "And I've mentioned it before somewhere that it was like living in an apartheid cricket system.
“It has a horrendous effect; your confidence [as a player], the industry, and fans want to see their favourite cricketers from close range.
“We are the only side in world cricket in the last 10 years that have not played a series against India and yet, you see that we have become an affluent cricket economy. So that's another proud moment for us.”
Despite the international hiatus, Raja said Pakistani cricket has continued to develop and grow, with improved pathways into elite cricket for young players. He also recently announced the Pakistan Women's T20 League (PWTL) in October, with the inaugural edition set to run alongside next year's men’s Pakistan Super League (PSL).
“There's a lot of traction, a lot of excitement," he said. "Women's cricket in the next five years will skyrocket in Pakistan.”
While the Pakistan team were unable to play in Pakistan, they played their home games in the UAE, and Raja is grateful the Emirates stepped in to provide a "home away from home".
“They've been very kind to host us for so many years," he said. "So we have a lot of respect for that and all the cricket in the stadiums that we used.”