Pakistan was stripped of its right to co-host the World Cup and hasn’t played a match at home since a deadly terror attack on the Sri Lanka team’s bus en route to a test match at Lahore in 2009.
Fresh from ending Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run at the World Cup, Younis’s team thrashed West Indies by 10 wickets on Wednesday to book a semifinal against India or Australia.
Back in Pakistan, which was also celebrating its national day, tens of thousands of people gathered around televisions set up in markets, parks and outside restaurants to watch the match. The victory prompted street parties in which people danced, sang and let off fireworks in towns and cities across the country.
“Nation erupts in joy,” read the headline of the respected daily, Dawn.
Younis said after the match he wanted Pakistan’s World Cup exploits to spread a positive message about cricket in the country.
“You know, it’s hurting,” Younis said. “It is sad that cricket is not back in Pakistan, so I think it’s important that we play well and people start believing that we are a good cricketing nation.
“Then things started will start moving in our way and cricket will hopefully come back to our country.”
Pakistan has also been rocked by the spot-fixing scandal in England last year which led to long-term bans for three key players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.
The captaincy has also been the subject of much debate, with Shahid Afridi only confirmed as World Cup skipper ahead of Misbah-ul-Haq less than three weeks before the tournament started.
“We had been through lots of ups and downs in the past,” Younis said. “That really made us believe that we could really do well in this World Cup. It probably brought us together a bit more, all the controversies we’ve been through.”
Pakistan now heads to Mohali for the semifinal against India or Australia where Younis hopes his team might get some support, even if they end up playing fierce rival and tournament co-host India.
“We’re going to Mohali from here and hopefully there’ll be a few people coming over from the border from Lahore to support us.”
Following the attack on the Sri Lanka team, the International Cricket Council set up a Pakistan Task Team to identify options to help restore international confidence in Pakistan from a safety point of view, but there are still no plans for the country to host international cricket in the near future.
ICC official David Richardson, a member of the team, said in January that it would take time for player associations to be convinced of their safety in Pakistan.