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T20I series: A tour to remember

Enthusiasm for Pakistan’s favourite sport had slowly dissipated but the recent matches have served to create a revival

By Nabil Tahir |
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PUBLISHED October 02, 2022

I have been covering cricket for the past nine years and have been watching cricket for a lot longer than I can recall. But I have never before witnessed a series that has had a houseful in every match. Since 2009, for nearly a decade Pakistan could not host international matches. Then finally in 2019, Sri Lanka agreed to play the ODI and T20 series in Pakistan. Since then, Pakistan has hosted multiple series and lets not forget our Pakistan Super League (PSL), which played a significant role in the revival of cricket in Pakistan.

Through the course of my career as a sports journalist, I have been lucky enough to cover cricket matches both inside and outside of Pakistan. However, never before have I witnessed a houseful for every match. It was only in September when England was touring and four games were played in Karachi that 34,228 spectators filled the stadium back-to-back. What was even more extraordinary was that three out of these four matches were during the week but that didn’t deter the crowds from travelling from different parts of the city to cheer for our team.


All of them were also sold out before the start of the series. Many tried to get the weekend match tickets but were forced to buy weekday ones just to watch the top-tier England team playing in Karachi. But both the teams, significantly the Pakistan team, didn't disappoint the fans, giving them one of the best matches to witness in the stadium.

The energy during these matches was unparalleled. The loud cheers and clamouring crowds left one with goosebumps of excitement. Whether during team warm ups before the match, during the National Anthem, or during every ball bowled and every shot struck, the crowd didn't miss a chance to cheer and celebrate their favourites.

One would wonder why all the matches in Karachi were houseful. What was the reason the series before this didn't see as much enthusiasm from the fans as was witnessed during these series? The crowd had to go spend ages trying to find decent parking, walk through a number of irksome security checks and then walk a few kms at least to reach the entrance of the stadium alone. However, none of these proved to be deterrents. The matches were just after office hours too but that fact didn’t by any means mean that the attendees were any less enthusiastic.

There are several topics that I discussed with the fans and the officials, and learned that there was some difference compared to the previous series that motivated the fans to head to the stadium. Still, we also came across some of the troubles that the fans faced, which they didn't in the previous ones. But let's first go through the positives.

Recent Performance

The excitement and interest of cricket enthusiasts and lovers was not developed overnight, but this journey started when the team made it to the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 held in UAE. Since then, the team has been performing and giving the fans matches, which have been a treat to watch. A cricket lover who calls himself a die-heart fan and never misses a match said he wasn't this interested until the UAE T20 World Cup. "I used to have a craze of watching the Pakistani team play every match, but over time it decreased, and then a time came when I rarely watched any match at all. The reason was the team performance and the quality of players compared to others," said 26-year-old Hassan Latif.

"Since PSL was held in Pakistan and new players came up, the interest started to develop again. Especially after the last year's T20 World Cup, where the captain Babar Azam and company performed extremely well to reach the semi-finals, and then the recent Asia Cup. So there was no excuse for not going to the stadium to support our team against England," added Hassan, who watched all four matches with his friends.

He added that they were also excited to watch the England team players as this was the first time they witnessed a team like England live at the stadium. "This was an outstanding experience. Watching big players like them was our dream; watching them play as they did was amazing. Also, the performance of our players was a cherry on top," he said.

The fans are not only the ones who believe this but the spokesperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) too. While explaining the reason for the packed stadium during Pakistan and England series, he said, "We believe the fans and supporters have now started to own this Pakistan men's cricket team. Since the T20 World Cup in the UAE, this side has produced outstanding performances across all formats. It has shown tremendous resilience, which has restored the confidence and faith of the fans, who expect them to perform strongly."

He added that after a long time, the present side boasts at least half a dozen cricketers the fans will like to pay to watch. "The fans have high hopes from this side, and that is also one of the reasons, which attracts them to the stadium," he said, adding that the stadiums are probably not as fan-friendly as they would want them to be.


He also mentioned PSL's role in building this excitement among the fans. "HBL PSL has contributed significantly in getting international cricket back in Pakistan as well as attracting fans, who were starved for cricket. HBL PSL has also produced cricketers who have gone on to represent Pakistan. So, it has helped Pakistan in more than one way," he said.

National Cause

If you are in Karachi, you must have noticed that the city was not decorated nor lighted up with a celebration of England coming for a home series. This is unsual. Even during the PSL, the city is decorated, and fans' engagement areas are built to build up the excitement. This time we saw nothing, not even in one place. Was PCB responsible for this? The answer is yes.

Although these series were equally important for the fans and the cricket board, then why didn't they do anything to let people know that the England team was here? And even then, people turned up in the stadium? How?

Well, Pakistan and its people have seen many disasters in the past month, and many have been working for and with the 33 million people, including approximately 16 million children, who have been affected by this year's heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan, which have brought devastating rains, floods and landslides. As many as seven million people have been temporarily displaced. Some significant rivers breached their banks, and dams have overflowed, destroying homes, farms and critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and public health facilities.

So PCB, considering the recent floods disaster, decided not to do any branding or decorate the city. "These are difficult times for Pakistan as one-third of the country is submerged. Over 1,500 people have lost their lives, and over a million are homeless. In this situation, it would have been insensitive of the PCB to celebrate the series by dressing up the two cities. We have to understand and respect the sentiments of our public and fans, and, as a responsible organisation, this is exactly what we have done," explained the PCB spokesperson.

This is not all that they did. They also announced that all the revenue generated from the first T20I against England will go to the PM Flood Relief Funds. People made sure not even one ticket was left unsold and reached the stadium in huge numbers to jam-pack the stadium. The PCB generated 13 million rupees from the match, and PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja stated, "A packed National Stadium watched the first T20. Cricket has once again demonstrated that it unites our passionate nation, and thanks all the spectators who turned up to the match and contributed towards this noble cause."

Affordable Tickets

The people in Karachi don't have a frustratingly limited number of activities outside their homes, save for restaurants. Therefore, the matches gave them something they were far hungrier for. However, if the ticket prices had been too high, this too would have been a distant dream for them. This is why the cricket board decided to set the tickets at a price that would still generate revenue but still entice the fans to come and enjoy the matches. Tickets were sold at the cost of Rs 1,500, Rs 750, Rs 500, and Rs 250, thus enabling many to buy tickets.

Mohib Asad, a spectator at the stadium, looked the picture of devout cricket fan in a Pakistan jersey with this face painting in colours representing his support for the Pakistani team. In his hands, he held a banner that read, 'I will be here for every match’. "My friends and I bought the tickets as soon as they were announced. We were happy to see the affordable ticket price. But even then, many of the enclosures were sold out already. We have been to PSL matches held at the same venue before too, but this time, the crowd at the stadium was amazing," said Mohib, who termed this a ‘lifetime experience’ that he can talk about for years.

The PCB spokesperson added that the PCB had strategically lowered the prices as they wanted spectators to attend the matches, enjoy cricket, watch their favourite cricketer live in action and send out strong visuals about the passion for cricket this country possesses. And this is what they have achieved.


The matches in Lahore are a bit more expensive than in Karachi, and they range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 500, lower than the Australia T20, where the ticket was from Rs 4,000 to Rs 500. Even then, all three matches in Lahore were sold out before the fifth T20.

Mohib added that one of the reasons for the large turnout in the stadiums was the convenience of buying tickets through the Bookme website. “In the old days, we had to go to the centres and stand in line to buy tickets. Now since they are available online, more people are buying and coming to stadiums,” he said.

Usman Waheed, Director Commercial PCB said, "England is visiting Pakistan for the first time in 17 years, and these matches will be a build-up to October's ICC Men's T20 World Cup. To ensure maximum fans can attend these matches and watch some of the best shortest format cricketers live from either side, we have decided to make the tickets affordable, ensuring families also turn up in big numbers to support cricket and both sides.”

Some disturbed fans

While there was much fun and excitement during the series, some people were unhappy with the security arrangements at the stadium premises, which made the experience of first-timers an unpleasant one. A spectator Ali Hasnain, who went to watch the match at the stadium after a long time, said, "I bought the seats of the best enclosure to watch the match after a long time. Coming straight from work, I reached an hour after the match started. I saw that someone else had already occupied our seats, and there was no seat left to sit. I was left with no choice but to sit on the stairs since the stadium was overcrowded."

He added that this ruined his experience, and he is unsure if he will be going again in the future. "It is better to watch the match at home if this is what it is like watching the match at the stadium. I even saw families struggling for their seats," he said, adding that there were still many people enjoying themselves and the experience of being at the stadium and hearing the crowd cheer was good. Still, he didn't enjoy watching the match.

When asked the PCB spokesperson about the fans facing issues, he said, "It could have happened at one or two gates, but generally the security has been excellent, worked according to plan, and we have not received any complaints from the spectators in the past."

Making the experience better in future

As this series was a treat for many, several people were still bothered by the road closures and alternate routes that rendered traffic jams at peak hours. Unlike previous matches, the road near the stadium was open except for the one from Hassan Square toward Stadium. Still, people were concerned about road closures when the team travelled from the hotel to the stadium and vice versa.

While understanding the concern, the PCB spokesperson said, "It's a case of once bitten, twice shy for us. We have worked extremely hard to bring international cricket back home and restore the confidence and faith of the top international sides. We acknowledge and understand international cricket, and HBL PSL causes inconvenience for the public, and we apologise for that, but the guard can only slowly be lowered."

"We remain optimistic and confident that very soon the level of security for the players and officials will be lessened that will ensure cricket doesn't affect normal life and cause inconvenience to the public," he added.


About increasing the experience of the spectators who have helped them by giving houseful matches, the PCB spokesperson said, "The game is all about the fans, and the more fans will turn up for the matches, the more they'll inspire the cricketers, which, in turn, will produce winning performances. Furthermore, the PCB wants families to come to the venue so that their young children, be these boys or girls, fall in love with cricket and take up this sport."

For PCB, the best part about this series was Pakistan's resilience. The high-quality cricket by both sides ahead of the T20 World Cup, the number of eyeballs that have followed the series, passionate cricket fans and support from the media are what has and will help them in the future.

He further told The Express Tribune about their future plans to make the experience better for the fans at the stadium. "There are several pipeline plans, including setting up a fan-engagement department. Fans are our biggest asset, and the PCB wants to look after them as best as possible. Uplifting the stadium by installing better seats is also part of fan enhancement. Apart from that, the PCB plans to install the latest replay screens, besides turning the venues into wifi zones.

This is not only a big win for the fans but for the team as well. The lost energy of the cricket fans has been revived, and they are once again the cricket-loving nation that stands by its team and also criticizes to make them a better team. With the PCB's future plans in place, we are sure that there is a lot more to come and attract more fans, not just local but international, to this country.