#CricketComesHome after six years, Pak vs Zim series to start tomorrow
Zimbabwe is set to become the first Test-playing team to tour Pakistan in six years and revive international cricket here with three one-day matches and two T20s to be played at Lahore’s historic Qaddafi Stadium. That’s not all. Fans will also have an opportunity to enjoy live music performances during the series between May 22nd and 31st.
Due to hectic and commendable efforts of the PCB, international cricket seems to have returned to Pakistani soil. It all started with the successful tour of the Kenyan cricket team in December 2014 when they played against Pakistan’s A-team, serving as a stepping stone for the return of international cricket to Pakistan. The board has worked tirelessly to convince international cricket teams to play in Pakistan that will not only help revive the game here, but also improve the country’s image on a global level.
This combination of music and cricket – both enjoyed immensely by the people of Pakistan – is definitely going to help the country in more ways than one, as well as give fans a platform to once again witness and enjoy live performances and cricket – both of which had disappeared in recent times — in their home country.
1) PCB’s commendable efforts in making this tour possible
Things started to fall in place with the successful tour of the Kenyan cricket team in December 2014 when they played against Pakistan’s A-team. That tour became the stepping-stone for the return of top-flight international cricket to Pakistan.
PCB has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work in order to convince teams to tour Pakistan. There is an understanding within the board that the fans deserve more than what they have been given in these six years of isolation. Time to reverse the trend!
2) How the isolation has affected us
– Financial impact – estimated loss of more than $ 100 million from broadcast deals as a result of two canceled tours from India alone. – Could not host the Champions Trophy 2008 and World Cup 2011 – two golden chances to portray Pakistan’s soft image (look at India’s example and how cricket is doing wonders for them through IPL)
– New players have not been able to play at home
– Fans have been deprived of action, have not been to the stadium in so many years
– Kids who would normally be attracted towards cricket as a result of seeing their stars at the stadium were pushed away from the game
– Stadium upkeep and infrastructure development
3) Big occasion for Pakistani players
This tour marks the first time that many of Pakistan’s players will get to play in front of their home crowd. ODI captain Azhar Ali has not played a single match on Pakistani soil. Ahmad Shehzad became the first Pakistani to debut abroad after the attack on the Sri Lankan team and, after six years of international cricket, he now has a chance to play on his own soil for the first time. Junaid Khan – Pakistan’s talented left-arm pacer – has not played at home. To experience what it means to play in front of one’s home crowd should be a priceless moment for these players. For some of the younger players – the likes of Saad Nasim, Sami Aslam, Ehsan Adil, and Yasir Shah – this marks a new era where they get to play at home in the early part of their careers.
Others like Wahab Riaz, Fawad Alam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Saeed Ajmal, and Mohammad Hafeez have played only a handful of matches in Pakistan and this will be a welcome return for these players.
Boom Boom Afridi can light up Lahore once again – people still remember how the Lahore stadium filled up for his breathtaking hundred against India in 2006. As he smashed Harbhajan Singh to all corners of the ground, the Lahori crowd were fully behind him. The Gaddafi Stadium will gladly welcome those chants once again as Afridi captains the T20 side on May 22 and May 24.
4) Re-engaging with the fans
PCB’s marketing focus is on improving the in-stadia experience of the fans. There is a massive (unprecedented) marketing campaign in the works, all in a bid to re-engage the fans. In these six years, PCB has lost out on an important avenue of engaging with the fans. During every home season, one would see scores of people lined up outside the stadiums in their bid to get match tickets. Entertainment is another important aspect – stars such as Ali Zafar, Humaima Malick, Annie Khalid, Shehzad Roy, XYZ, are all set to be there at the stadium to support the boys.
5) Fresh, young side that needs everyone’s support
With stalwarts Misbah and Afridi retiring from the ODI team, a new captain, and a virtually new playing XI, we all need to support our new-look team. Back in the 90’s, many of our players had a superstar aura attached to them. To be honest, a lot of it had to with the fact that they were revered personalities at home. That hasn’t happened in six years and the new boys are waiting for our support. Its our job to make them our new superstars!
6) Pakistan’s image
This is not just any low-key series. This is Pakistan’s chance of showing to the rest of the world that we are ready again. This isn’t PCB’s show. This isn’t the cricket team’s show. This is Pakistan’s show – one that will be beamed live across the world. The PCB Chairman wrote in his book “Cricket Cauldron” that in 2004, the Indian High Commissioner told him how Pakistan’s excellent hospitality meant that the 20, 000 fans who toured with their team were returning back to India as ambassadors of Pakistan. With the international media’s focus on how things work out during the Zimbabwe series, it is perhaps time to send across a similar message.