LAHORE: Green T-shirts, face paint and flags are all the rage in Lahore, as the city prepares to welcome back international cricket. And this time, it’s not just a domestic match – the boys in green will be taking on the world.
Lahore is wearing a festive look as it prepares to host the second international cricket event this year – the Independence Cup. The series against the World XI comes after the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in March.
All roads leading to Qaddafi Stadium are full of cricket enthusiasts, and despite the inconvenience caused by strict security arrangement and diversions installed in and around the stadium, men, women and children of all ages are prepping for the first full international matches since Zimbabwe’s 2015 tour.
World XI arrives
Players of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World XI reached Lahore amid very tight security on Monday morning, a day before the three-match T20 series. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi welcomed the star-studded team, led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, at Allama Iqbal International Airport.
World XI coach Andy Flower – who has also coached the Pakistan team – underlined that he was expecting a good series. “It’s great to be here, we’re looking forward to seeing a lot of you watching the great cricket we put on the show,” said Flower. He also expressed his gratitude to the people of Pakistan and the PCB for extending a warm welcome.
The World XI, featuring du Plessis’ countrymen Hashim Amla and David Miller, Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, New Zealand’s Grant Elliott, England’s Paul Collingwood, and Australia’s George Bailey, among others, is scheduled to play three T20 matches at Qaddafi Stadium on September 12 (today), 13, and 15.
Cricket fans and the PCB have very high hopes that the series will close a dark era and provide an opportunity to new players to experience the thrill of playing before a home crowd for the first time. Only five members of the current Pakistani squad have experienced that before — skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Sohail Khan and Ahmed Shehzad.
Over 8,000 police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in the city to provide foolproof security to international cricketers and cricket fans. Offices, markets, shops and roads will remain closed around the 27,000-capacity venue, while spectators will have to pass through multi-layer security checkpoints.
Lahore Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rai Ejaz claimed that the City Traffic Police has made a comprehensive traffic plan for convenience of cricket lovers and public at large. But all alternative traffic arrangements failed on Monday when some protesters – unrelated to the match – staged a sit-in on the Mall Road in favour of their demands. Commuters remained stranded on roads for hours despite deployment of three CTOs, 10 SPs, 20 DSPs, 67 inspectors, 162 patrolling officers and 1,268 traffic wardens to maintain smooth flow of traffic on main city roads.
A large number of cricket fans complained that the PCB has made inadequate arrangements for Independence Cup ticket sales. Despite standing in long queues, they highlighted, most cricket enthusiasts were refused Rs500 and Rs2,500 tickets. They said bank officials told them the tickets had sold out.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, cricket lover Faizan Butt said he had visited five branches of the Bank of Punjab to get five tickets of Rs500 for his friends and family, but could not get even one. “All bank branches have stopped sale of Rs500 tickets. Only Rs4,000 and Rs8,000 tickets were available in a few branches, which I cannot afford,” he said.
Online Ticket Sale
eticketing.pk, an online electronic ticketing franchise for Independence Cup 2017 has also stopped sale of Rs2,500 and Rs8,000 tickets, claiming that the online quota has sold out. Several, cricket lovers also complained about the online ticketing service, asking what is the point of online sales when buyers still have to visit the eticketing.pk office to collect their tickets.
Various online ticket buyers highlighted that online ticket arrangements were very flawed and that even after paying courier charges, buyers were asked to collect tickets from the franchisee’s office.
Black marketing of Independence Cup 2017 tickets is also rife on the Internet. Though the PCB has warned cricket fans to beware of counterfeit tickets, people are still taking risks as there seems to be no other option available to get tickets. Several black marketers are offering Independence Cup 2017 tickets at double the price on different social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.