Clarke eyes bumper Pakistan series

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England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke believes the Test series between Pakistan and Australia in England next summer will be “staggeringly successful”.

Giles Clarke

Giles Clarke admits he was delighted to "stand up and support Pakistan" as they search for Test venues overseas

Speaking at Headingley Carnegie, the venue for the second of two Tests between the countries in July, Clarke claimed any concerns about the appeal of Test cricket on neutral ground would be offset by the energy of the local Asian community.

And he insisted the ECB would welcome future Test cricket between other national sides on English soil.

Clarke said: “It is very important that this tour is a successful tour, that it is well supported by the Pakistani community, so that Pakistan, who are the home team, feel they have strong popular support.

“Down the road, obviously we’re very happy to stage Test matches in this country, if it’s feasible, and if that’s what they’d like to do.

“From what we’ve all seen in the World Twenty20, it encouraged us that this would be staggeringly successful. Yorkshire were encouraged to bid for it.

“The support of the Anglo-Pakistani community in this area is absolutely crucial. We were greatly encouraged to stand up and support Pakistan at this time.”

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Clarke refuted suggestions that hosting a Test in this country without England’s involvement, for the first time since 1912, would detract from the series’ appeal.

Pakistan have been forced to play their home Tests overseas following the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March.

Although they beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in July, that represents the only time Pakistan have played an away series in the last two years.

Clarke, however, is convinced they will be competitive against a battle-hardened Australia team that contested the Ashes in England this summer.

“The challenge for both sides is to play well in English conditions, which is one of the toughest tests for a cricketer,” Clarke added.

“From Pakistan’s point of view, it’s tough to play Australia anyway. Australia, after all, didn’t manage to win the Ashes last summer, so I think Pakistan will take quite a lot of heart from that.

Ijaz Butt

Ijaz Butt welcomed England as hosts next summer, saying: "If we don’t play, our team goes down."

“There’s a long tradition of really good quick seam bowling from Pakistan. They have some wonderful spin bowlers, and Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf made a lot of runs here a few years ago (in the 2006 Headingley Test).

“They won’t mind batting here; Younus is looking forward to it.”

The series against Australia has been rescheduled from 2008, when it was postponed because of security fears, and Clarke, who is also chairman of the International Cricket Council’s Pakistan task force, which provides strategies on Pakistan’s future involvement in international cricket, suggested the return of overseas tours there remained a long way off.

England are due to tour Pakistan in early 2012, but Clarke said: “At the moment, there’s no security advice that supports it.

“Indeed, I chair the Pakistan task force and the ICC security advice is that I can’t even go there, which I think is unfortunate.

“Clearly there is a lot to be done. I think everybody in cricket supports those in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is essentially a delightful country and that’s why it’s important we look after them and give them the opportunity to play Test cricket, with, no doubt, a highly enthusiastic Pakistani community in Yorkshire supporting them.”

PCB chairman Ijaz Butt feels playing series in neutral venues is preferable to not playing at all and that, if security does not improve, they will look to continue playing matches in England when possible.

He said: “We do not want our boys to sit around and wait until the situation improves. If we forego this then the standard will deteriorate and the boys won’t get their opportunity. It is essential. If we don’t play, our team goes down.

“We’re playing this series and we’re hoping in the future we’ll have other countries - if our situation doesn’t improve - playing here in England.”

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