This week Pakistan played Australia in front of an empty stadium in the United Arab Emirates, a thousand miles from home. Since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked in 2009, some countries have refused to tour Pakistan. This is at a time when the future of test cricket is being questioned due to larger audiences flocking to shorter versions of the game. Pakistan’s neighbour, Afghanistan, recently became a test nation and are currently playing their inaugural T20 league, also in the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan have not lost a test series in their adopted home, but the cost is substantial. $50,000 per day to rent the stadium and that is not recouped in ticket sales. They also have to cover accommodation for both teams. In the past decade it is estimated that the inability to play in Pakistan has cost $200 million. That’s money that could have been invested in developing the game and there are fears that youngsters will lose interest in cricket, without a national team to watch live.
Afghanistan is struggling for money too, and still has security issues. Their rise to join cricket’s elite is remarkable. They are scheduled to meet Pakistan for the first time in 2021 but it is hoped that Pakistan will have returned from exile long before then.