Lahore, April 11 (IANS) Former England skipper turned pundit Michael Atherton visited Pakistan during the Pakistan Super League and the former opener believes that while it was indeed sad that cricket returned to the country after a long hiatus due to security issues, the turn out 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 told the PCB’s media team during an 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 produce so many.”

Asked about Pakistan’s upcoming tour of England in the 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.

–IANS

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