by Wasim Abid
On September 12, 13 and 15 Pakistan witnessed the return of International Cricket on its home soil. A group of 14 players from across the world represented an International Cricket Council (ICC) World XI against Pakistan Cricket team in the Independence Cup at Lahore. The series featured three T20 matches which after an entertaining battle in all three matches was won by Pakistan 2-1.
ICC World XI featured some of the best players from around the world. Hashim Amla of South Africa – one of the leading batsmen in the international cricket, Faf Du Plessi – a hard hitting South Africa batsman and now Captain in all formats for his country, also led World XI, Mornie Morkel – tall South African fast bowler who has consistently featured in the top 10 ICC rankings over the past few years.
It was indeed a pleasant site to watch the best in the world visiting Pakistan and giving this cricket deprived nation an entertaining week. Pakistan has not been able to host an international event since the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan Cricket team to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The 2009 attacks came in the midst of war on terror due to which Pakistan suffered immensely. Earlier in 2002, in Karachi, a bus was attacked near a hotel where New Zealand Cricket team was staying. The New Zealand Cricket team was at that time touring Pakistan and was about to head to the National Stadium Karachi for 2nd Test Match of the series between Pakistan and New Zealand. After that Tour, International teams depicted their reluctance in visiting Pakistan citing security reasons. However, assurances of provision of state level security to the visiting teams allowed the return of cricket to Pakistan with South Africa, India and Sri Lanka amongst other nations visiting Pakistan frequently for Cricket series. But, 2009 acted as a final nail in the coffin for the entire cricket world and since then no international team has come to Pakistan, with the exception of Zimbabwe, for a short 3 One Day International (ODI) Matches Series
Given the current security situation in Pakistan, which compared to 2009 has improved a great deal, it is still an uphill task to convince international teams to visit Pakistan. The hope revived this year with the hosting of the Final of the PSL – II in Lahore where a few international players representing their respective franchises agreed to play in Lahore for the Final. State level security measures were put in place for the teams and a successful event was held at Lahore.
Hosting of the PSL – II Final at Lahore paved the way for a short visit of the ICC World XI comprising of some of the best in the current era. For this, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) management and the government of Punjab deserve all the appreciation. Job well done boys. For a change, our former World Cup winning Captain, now politician did not criticize the event or the government in his usual way. Perhaps the lack of so called “Phatechar” players in the World XI team made him stop.
As per newspaper reports, thousands of security personnel were deployed in Lahore on the route from the Hotel to the Gaddafi Stadium. Foolproof arrangements were made that no unauthorized person was allowed in the vicinity of the Stadium. People were made to park their vehicles a few kilometers outside the Stadium and made to take the special shuttles arranged by the government for pick and drop purposes. According to some on the social media, Lahore came to a standstill. Some on the social media were critical and angry over road blocks while others – who formed a large majority were not too concerned. Their only concern appeared to be reaching the Stadium on time for the match.
It is true that people of Lahore faced inconvenience during the week the International team was touring, but no one can deny the fact that such measures were required. Given the security situation, and given the fact that international teams are not even willing to tour Pakistan, a foolproof security was bound to cause inconvenience to the people. But having said that, it is us the people who have been hoping and praying for the return of cricket to our homeland. We have been dreaming of the day we will be able to see our heroes in action in front of our eyes. The noise, the shouting, the chants, the Mexican wave and most of all, the Pakistan win at their home soil, has been the hope of majority of the Pakistanis if not all. And so it happened and it went well. A temporary inconvenience is perhaps acceptable to the majority, if not all.
The PCB Chairman has also announced that Sri Lanka and West Indies Cricket Team will each play a T20 match in the coming months as part of the Tour to Pakistan. Majority of the series will be played in UAE but a few matches will be played in Pakistan as well. This is indeed a positive development and the PCB and its management deserves full credit for making this happen. Staging of home series in Pakistan is not only beneficial for the PCB in terms of revenue but also for cricket in general and the players as well. Let’s hope this revival of international cricket at home continues to take positive turns.