LAHORE: After eight long years, international cricket is back in Pakistan and the festivity surrounding the Independence Cup 2017 has shown that the sport is as popular as ever.
The match between Pakistan and the World XI got under way amid tight security at the Gaddafi Stadium. National flags and green shirts were seen everywhere in the city, especially around the stadium itself as both teams went to table in the three-match T20 series.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), provincial and city administrations displayed big banners and posters of guest cricket stars on all major roads. Despite the hot and humid weather, cricket enthusiasts started reaching Gaddafi Stadium, along with their families and friends since noon.
The objective was to avoid traffic congestion on roads during peak hours as law enforcing agencies had closed most of those leading to the cricket venue for security reasons.
PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS
After a complete search and sweep operation, law enforcing agencies allowed cricket fans to board on shuttle buses at around 04:00pm. The Punjab Masstransit Authority (PMA), on the orders of the provincial government, provided 38 buses from its feeder fleet of 200 to provide the free shuttle service between Gaddafi Stadium and designated parking areas.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, some commuters criticised the government and law enforcing agencies for making their lives miserable by closing all major roads for cricket matches. On the other hand, cricket lovers expressed their joy and stressed that they could bear these temporary hardships for the sake of cricket.
Ahmed Muneeb, a cricket fan, said that after standing in long queues, he successfully grabbed two tickets to watch the opening match of the Independence Cup 2017.
“I appreciate the efforts of the Pakistan Cricket Board for reviving international cricket in the country. We are a cricket-loving nation and we missed international cricket in Pakistan for eight long years. After the PSL final and Independence Cup, the negative impression has been dispelled and it has been proven that Pakistan is a safe place to play cricket,” he maintained.
Mahrukh Shaukat, a Punjab University student with green and white stripes painted on her cheeks, said she reached the stadium with her friends to watch the match between Pakistan and the World XI. She said Lahorites are excited to watch the performance of international cricket stars and local players on Pakistani soil.
World XI Squad
The World XI has drawn players from seven countries, including Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, George Bailey, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Grant Elliott, Tamim Iqbal, David Miller, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy, Samuel Badree, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir. Meanwhile, the Pakistan squad includes Sarfraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan and Sohail Khan.
International teams had stopped visiting Pakistan after an attack in March 2009 on the Sri Lankan team in which seven of its players were injured. In 2015, a tour by the Zimbabwean team was marred by a bomb attack near the Gaddafi Stadium. However, PSL final earlier this year and now the Independence Cup 2017 series have surely restored the confidence of international players and revived international cricket in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2017.