ISLAMABAD: Ehsan ur Rehman Mazari, who heads the ministry for inter-provincial coordination which oversees the Pakistan Cricket Board, said on Tuesday Pakistan would share its batting and bowling expertise with Saudi Arabia and help strengthen the Kingdom’s national squad amid a rise in popularity of the game in the Middle Eastern country.
Cricket matches have been organized in Saudi Arabia since the 1960s, when the game was introduced by expatriates from Pakistan and India, after which local clubs began to form. The Kingdom became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2003 and was promoted to associate membership in 2016.
But the game’s real boom in the Kingdom came only in 2020 with the establishment of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, which has since lined up a series of programs to promote the sport at home and prepare national teams to compete with the world’s best in the future.
“I’ve heard that cricket is coming up big time in Saudi Arabia and we will definitely, if they need our help, since it’s a brotherly country, we will definitely help them in coaching, in bowling coaching, batting coaching, whatever they want,” Mazari told Arab News in an interview in Islamabad.
In March, the Saudi national cricket team won the Asian Cricket Council’s Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 in Bangkok after trouncing Bahrain in the final.
Pakistani legendary fast bowler and former captain, Wasim Akram, also visited Riyadh in February to discuss the future of cricket in the kingdom with SACF Chairman Prince Saud bin Mishal and help the Kingdom launch a cricket league.
“It [cricket] is coming up big time in Saudi Arabia and more youngsters are going into cricket so we will definitely help our brotherly country,” Mazari added.
Pakistan has a rich cricketing history and has won almost all major ICC trophies in the sport. Some of the best cricketers in history have emerged from Pakistan, including the all-rounder and former prime minister Imran Khan, who led the country to the 1992 World Cup victory, legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, one of the greatest ODI all-rounders of all time, and Babar Azam, Pakistan’s current all-format captain and the only cricketer to feature in the top five rankings across all formats.
Many top Afghan players were trained by Pakistani coaches, and the creation of the Afghanistan Cricket Federation in 1995 was also supported by Pakistan.