KARACHI: For 60 children of the Sirat-ul-Jannah Orphanage and Salt Lake School, playing cricket with the batsmen and bowlers who’ve been part of the Pakistani Cricket Team was nothing short of a dream come true, made possible by the United States Consulate on Tuesday.
The US Consulate’s Sports Diplomacy cricket match at the Beach Luxury Hotel offered the kids a chance to rub shoulders with big names in the field of sports, take pictures with them and get their autographs.
Children of Sirat-ul-Jannah Orphanage and Salt Lake School take autographs from cricketer Kamran Akmal (left) and teach US Consul General Micheal Dodman how to play cricket (right) at the Sports Diplomacy iftar hosted by the US Consulate on Tuesday. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
For Noman Asghar, a student of grade four at the Salt Lake School, it was very exciting to see Kamran Akmal play live instead of watching him on a television screen. “This is my first time attending such an event and I am really happy to meet the cricketers,” said a joyous Asghar as he showed his white T-shirt which had been autographed by US diplomats and Pakistani sportsmen. Attallah, a grade five student, also appeared very excited after having his picture taken with Kamran Akmal.
Setting a trend
Expressing his gratitude towards the Pakistani sportsmen for taking part in the match, US Consul General Michael Dodman welcomed the children and other guests to the first sports iftar being hosted by the US Consulate.
“We want to honour the spirit of Ramazan by giving back to the community and showing respect for the young and old,” said Dodman. “Sports, such as cricket, exemplify principles of leadership, teamwork and respect - core values shared by the United States and Pakistan.”
He also thanked the children for showing him how to play cricket, saying “he’d picked up a cricket bat for the first time in his life.”
The children and cricketers were divided into two teams, blue and red - the former led by renowned cricketer Moin Khan and the latter by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
The diplomats were dressed in the green shirts of the Pakistan Cricket Team. Over the five-over match, Moin Khan’s blue team made 69 runs which the red team of Kamran Akmal could not chase. Former test cricketer Sikandar Bakht added to the match with his entertaining commentary, cheering the boys and girls to compete good-naturedly.
Like any other match, this one was also followed by an award distribution ceremony in which the Consul General handed out awards to players of the teams.
A spirited game
“Sports help bridge the divide between nations and forgo religion, economic statures and other biases to spread peace in the world,” said globally renowned squash player, Jahangir Khan, while speaking to The Express Tribune. “Whether played at community level or on a global scale, the purpose of sports doesn’t change - that every person stands an equal chance of winning or losing.”
Moin Khan, who has been recently appointed as the chief selector for the Pakistani Cricket Team, appreciated the efforts of the US Consulate for arranging such an event which gave the children an opportunity to play with some of the country’s finest sportsmen. “It was a fun and healthy event for all of us as even we don’t get to play [cricket] as much as we used to,” said Moin. “I liked the slogan of Sports Diplomacy and am looking forward to similar events by the US Consulate so that the children could meet and play with players of other sports.”
For sports anchor, Sikandar Bakht, the match was an enjoyable experience as well. “It was a pleasure commenting during the match. It was a really good concept and I enjoyed watching boys and girls play together.” Bakht added that such events should not be limited to Ramazan and should be arranged on a regular basis.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.
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