You can’t take Pakistan out of Cricket: You can’t keep Cricket out of Pakistan

It was a pleasant morning in March of 2009. I had just woken up and was getting ready to go to work. Cricket and especially Test Cricket always used to be in the back of my head no matter what I was doing. While heading to work, I was thinking about the spanking the inexperienced Pakistani bowling line up had received at the hands of Sangakkara, Samaraweera and Dilshan, each of whom had scored in excess of triple figures. Sri Lanka had piled on a mammoth 606 in the first innings and all hopes of winning a home series seemed to be fading away. Pakistan had shown hopes of squeezing out a draw by giving only a wicket away for 110 at the end of the 2nd day of the play. A classic day of patient Test Cricket beckoned. But then horror struck when I reached my office and turned the TV on to check the score. The Sri Lankan team bus had been attacked and there were fears of a player getting seriously injured, there were even rumors of one of Sri Lankan players dying in the attack at first. My heart sank. We had been deprived of International Cricket at home for two years before Sri Lanka finally decided to come to Pakistan and now this? Surely no one in their right minds would come to play here now. The whole nation was heartbroken, devastated.

It looked like our enemy had won. There wasn’t going to be any more Cricket in Pakistan for the foreseeable future. And it did happen. There wasn’t any international Cricket at home soil for a long time to come.

Then 2010 came and spot fixing happened. As if Pakistan’s Cricket wasn’t already in shambles and needed a few of the players to go “so hey guys, we’re gonna go ahead and make us some dough at the side, hope you won’t mind the odd no-balls”. The heirs to Saeed Anwar and Wasim Akram had fallen. The perfectly crafted replica of Glenn McGrath had once again betrayed his country and his talent. This was the very definition of dark times. Doomsday for Pakistan cricket loomed large. We were in disbelief, this was March of 2009 yet again only this time, we were our own enemy, we ourselves were the victims of our own actions.

But then there was calm. There was a persevering rebuild. A home was made away from home and slowly, steadily, it was turned into a fortress. Many would come but none would conquer. There was utter domination of world beaters at the hands of the cornered tigers. Cricket had been taken away from us, but we couldn’t be taken away from Cricket. Like the Rolling Stones would say, Wild wild horses couldn’t drag us away. In the face of utter adversity, Pakistan did a Pakistan. We brought the test mace home. We became the number one test team in the world without having played a single game at home soil in 7 odd years. The world knew that there cannot be Cricket without Pakistan.

And when nobody would come to our home to stand by with us, Zimbabwe did. In May of 2015, Zimbabwe Cricket Team came to Lahore to play three one-day internationals and two T20 internationals. But nobody took it all that seriously because it was only Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe won our hearts but the world needed more convincing. It is painful that the cricketing world needed convincing instead of standing by one of their own. They needed assurances but they weren’t going to help us. They were just going to sit, wait and watch. And they did. But then PSL happened twice in two years. It was a huge success and especially so after the final of PSL 2 was held in Lahore. Some big names showed up and it made some heads turn. They knew it was time.

Pakistan Cricket’s management had done a great job by convincing the people at ICC that Pakistan was just as safe as any other cricket loving nation. The decision was made to send an ICC World XI to Pakistan to play three T20 internationals, recognized international games and not exhibition matches.

The most significant step forward here is that this event is backed by ICC. The ICC is financially supporting the tour as well as sending over the match officials for the first time since 2009. Players from 7 cricketing nations including South Africa (Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis(c), Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel), Australia (George Bailey, Tim Paine (wicketkeeper), Ben Cutting), West Indies (Samuel Badree,  Darren Sammy), England (Paul Collingwood), New Zealand (Grant Elliot), Bangladesh (Tamim Iqbal) and Sri Lanka (Thisara Parera) and the coach from Zimbabwe, Andy Flower.

These are some major headliners in world cricket and this lot coming to Pakistan is massive for the chances of the revival of International Cricket in Pakistan. The impact of this magnificent tour is so huge that international teams like Sri Lanka and West Indies are showing their interest in touring Pakistan within this year if all goes well with the World XI tour.

Cricket runs through the veins of Pakistanis. We have been deprived of it at home for a very long time. The entire Pakistani squad that is going to face the world XI has never played international cricket in front of their home crowd (with the exception of that Zimbabwe tour). For years now we have wanted the world to stand by us during our hour of need. It is very late but it is not too late. The world needs to stand with us now. Just like the world stood by Germany when there was a terrorist attack on two Football teams in April 2017 who were about to play their Champions League game. The game was only temporarily called off and played the next day at the same stadium in Germany. The game has been called off for almost a decade now in Pakistan. If Cricket has to come back permanently to Pakistan, we can’t do it alone. The world needs to stand by us and be our brothers in arms. The cricket fraternity needs to unite and bring the game back home to Pakistan because Cricket needs Pakistan as much as Pakistan needs Cricket.  The World XI tour shows that the world is uniting for Pakistan finally and hopefully, our stadiums will once again be filled with joyous roars and it will translate into the mindset of the entire nation and bring joy, love and tolerance for all.

So, all you die hard cricket fans, make your way to the stadium right away; from 12th-15th Sept, 2017!



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