'Perfect' PSL security will lead foreign teams to visit Pakistan: Atherton
Former England captain and commentator Michael Atherton, while paying tribute to the level of security provided and arrangements made in Pakistan for foreign players of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), has said that the foreign players had a great time playing PSL matches in Pakistan.
In an interview with the PCB’s media team, Atherton said "It's great to see cricket's return to Pakistan. By now all foreign cricketers are fully aware that they are safe in Pakistan. They had a great time playing PSL matches."
Atherton said that Pakistan's decade-long drought following the infamous 2009 attack on Sri Lankan team must have been hard on the Pakistan team too. "I'm sure it wasn’t easy for Pakistani cricketers to play in the UAE with no crowds while also being away from home," he said.
Atherton visited Pakistan during the Pakistan Super League and the former English opener believed that while it was indeed sad that cricket returned to the country after a long hiatus due to security issues, the turnout during the PSL was also a positive sign as the country gears up to host more international cricket in the future.
“Well, you only have to look around: the crowds, enthusiasm and packed houses for every game. Importantly, all these foreign players will now know that it is safe here and they will be able to take that message to the players from their own countries.
“I was in a café at the Pearl Continental and there were about eight to nine English players like Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara, Tom Banton, Lewis Gregory, Liam Dawson and they were all saying how much they’ve enjoyed the competition, the tournament’s standard has been great and they feel perfectly safe here. So, this message will get passed back and that will encourage more and more players and teams to come,” he said in the interview.
Commenting on the Pakistan team which has over the years produced greats, Atherton said: “When I played against them, they had some great bowlers in particular. The last attack that I played against on my tour here of 2000, they had Wasim and Waqar [Younis] then Mushtaq [Ahmed] and Saqlain [Mushtaq]. Now you have got four great match-winning bowlers there.
“Pakistan, of course, have produced great batsmen, but I think in recent times, the strength and depth of their bowling and particularly the kind of wicket-taking bowlers - pace bowlers and mystery spinners - have set them apart.
“I don’t know why Pakistan particularly produces great bowlers. I suspect it has something to do with the relative lack of infrastructure. In order to produce lots and lots of great batsmen, you’ve got to have facilities and infrastructure and coaches and a very formal system, but I think bowlers can spring and emerge from anywhere and that’s probably why Pakistan produces so many.”
Asked about Pakistan’s upcoming tour of England in summer, Atherton said that he is looking forward to seeing the likes of Babar Azam shine in conditions which won’t be easy.
“It should be terrific. It’s a big summer for England. It won’t be as big as the last summer because that was the World Cup and the Ashes, which are always slightly different. But, this year, we’ve got Pakistan and West Indies coming. Pakistan have a very good record against England in recent years in England.
“They’re always a valuable team to come and they get good support from the crowds. The cricket should be good and highly competitive. We’re looking forward to seeing Pakistan in England this summer. Babar Azam looks a fabulous player to me. He looks so skillful and the game looks so easy to him at times. I am very much looking forward to watching him play.
“It is a challenge for players when they come from the subcontinent to England. The last two, three years conditions, in England, have been extreme actually: the Duke’s ball and the floodlights and, you know, the way the ball has moved around, so it’s going to be a challenge for all Pakistan’s batsmen, but I think they will be up to it,” he smiled.
Atherton also lauded the perseverance and determination of Prime Minister Imran Khan, recalling how the 1992 World Cup winner had once told him that he would one day win the general elections "and then he did win."