Omair Alavi|Published April 5, 2018
FANS in a festive mood at one of the T20 matches.—Tahir Jamal/White Star
GOOD things come to those who wait — the saying fits Karachiites because they waited for nine long years for the return of international cricket, with bated breath and eager eyes. The last international match that was played and completed in Pakistan before the Lahore incident was in Karachi where the then captain Younis Khan scored 313 runs against Sri Lanka and joined the ranks of the greatest Pakistani batsmen of all time.
However, ever since that dreaded morning in Lahore, Karachiites were deprived of their right to watch cricket, for no fault of their own. That was February 2009 and in April 2018, the National Stadium finally opened its gates to an international team. For nine years, only local players graced the National Stadium for domestic matches; for nine years the stands remained empty as attempts of a revival were made in different cities; for nine years cricket remained far away from one of the few stadiums in Pakistan where they lost just one Test match.
And then came the historic day where joy returned to Karachi as the West Indians arrived for the three-match T20I series. However, unlike the past, things have changed massively with the passage of time. Gone are the days when the spectators went to watch the match and were ‘cool’ about it. Where they once used to go in groups, taking eatables and even toddlers to experience an international match, this time they had to brave many obstacles including parking their cars miles away from the stadium, reaching the venue through shuttle service, taking nothing except your mobile phones and getting seated in your stand hours before the start of the match.
With no roof to lessen the summer heat, watching a match in the stadium was nothing short of playing cricket itself. The waiting period might have been unbearable but as soon as the toss took place, as soon as the crowd found out the outcome of the coin flip, as soon as the opening batsmen raced to wear their gear in the dressing room, the audience was transported to another dimension. The enthusiastic Karachiites, and all those who came to watch the match from all parts of the country, didn’t care about the condition of the roof and even filled in for the speakers when the DJ’s system malfunctioned during the Pakistan national anthem on the eve of the first match.
For someone who has been to the National Stadium on many occasions, the trip this time may not have been that cordial. With a war on terrorism going on inside Pakistan, the law enforcement agencies were given the responsibility of holding error-free matches in the recently terror-free metropolis. They must be commended for doing a brilliant job and ensuring that not a single incident or mishap occurred, telling the outside world that Karachi is as safe as safe could be.
The efforts of Pakistan Cricket Board aside, holding a cricket match on three consecutive days including two weekdays was always going to be a big challenge. However, the matches were all night affairs and that’s why only those who lived in the vicinity suffered. For the rest, it was a dream come true, a dream that needed nine years to be fulfilled. With the series against West Indies won by the hosts, we can safely say that Pakistan has hit terrorism out for a six.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2018