Pakistan looks to Zaheer Abbas for revival of cricket at home

The ICC has been without a president since April when the former president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Mustafa Kamal resigned

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Former Pakistan captain and batting legend Zaheer Abbas - also known as the ‘Asian Bradman’ – is taking charge as president of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The 67-year-old is regarded as one of the finest batsmen produced by Pakistan. He is also a respected voice in the international game.

The ICC has been without a president since April when the former president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Mustafa Kamal resigned from the post last year in protest over constitutional changes to the organization and the role of the president.

“I really feel honored,” said Abbas following his appointment. “This is the sport which has given us friendship, respect, recognition, and an opportunity to serve our countries in different capacities,” he added in a statement. “It has given me more than I can ever possibly repay.”

According to ESPN cricinfo the ICC Chairman, N Srinivasan, described Abbas as a ‘Worthy ambassador” of the game. Abbas played 78 tests and 62 One Day Internationals (ODI) for Pakistan scoring 5062 and 2572 runs respectively.

Zaheer Abbas is the only Asian batsman to make a century of first-class centuries. “Zaheer is clearly an iconic cricketer who always played the game with skill, flair and in the true spirit,” Srinivasan added.

While the position is ceremonial, he wants to contribute to the game during his one-year term.

“Yes, the position is largely ceremonial but still it’s a great honor for me and Pakistan,” said Abbas.

“My priority will be to promote cricket across the world. Now, there are 120 cricketing countries but only 10 have the status of permanent members of the ICC. I am very optimistic that some more members will be added to the list in coming years,” he added. “I will work as hard as I can for the game of cricket to flourish.”

Abbas is not representing Pakistan at the ICC level despite being Pakistani, Abbas hopes for the resumption of cricket in Pakistan and bilateral series with arch rival, India. “Everybody is interested in Pakistan-India cricket matches,” said Abbas, and added that matches between them would improve and promote further cricket in the Subcontinent as cricket is the main sport in South Asia.

Cricket fans in Pakistan are happy. Pakistani’s consider the appointment of Abbas as a good omen for future cricket. Recently Pakistan beat Sri-Lanka on their home turf and were placed position three in the ICC test ranking.

The chairman of the tournament committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shakeel Sheikh, said the appointment of the legendary cricketer of Pakistan, Zaheer Abbas, was indeed an honor for Pakistan.

“We have to understand that he is not a representative of Pakistan but is heading the ICC,” said Sheikh. However, as the head of the ICC this is also his responsibility to bring international cricket to Pakistan grounds, and make the home series of Pakistan a real home series and the one’s away from home in foreign lands, added Sheikh.

Recently Bangladesh played exceptionally well and thrashes both, Pakistan and India, at home in ODI matches.
International cricket teams stopped playing in Pakistan after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. Since then Pakistan has been playing its home games in the United Arab Emirates.

But in May Zimbabwe became the first full member nation of ICC to tour Pakistan after six years of drought. Abbas is hopeful that more teams will visit Pakistan. “The government of Pakistan is keen in the resumption of Test cricket in Pakistan, and it is working hard. They organized a successful tour of Zimbabwe and security was fine,” he said, adding that it would boost the confidence of other teams as well.

Senior sports journalist, Mobarik Ahmed Virk, agreed. “I think it will be easier for him [Abbas] now that the Zimbabwean team has already toured Pakistan, and the mini-series was a huge success,” adding that Abbas needed to convince ICC members not to deprive Pakistan of the privilege of playing its home series at its home grounds.

Pakistan has suffered a lot due to the absence of international teams. “Our people can’t watch their heroes playing at home. There are very few people who can afford to watch Pakistani cricketers abroad,” added Abbas actually the playing at “home ground make a cricketer popular in the masses.”

Recalling his young days Abbas said, “We were very much excited to watch our heroes on ground and we would pray for their success. This is very natural.”

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