On 25th March 2018, Pakistan successfully hosted the final match of the third edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL), an international T20 cricket league founded by Pakistan, in one of its major cities, Karachi. Karachi last hosted an international cricket match nine years ago, before Pakistan suffered a massive setback following a terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket team during their tour to Pakistan in 2009. Since then international cricket boards and teams had refused to travel to Pakistan and participate in any cricketing events in the country. All the home series of Pakistan were shifted to United Arab Emirates, thus depriving the Pakistani people from the onething they were highly passionate about – international cricket in their home grounds. All the matches of the PSL, introduced in 2016, were also being held in UAE. Although the league had been a great success and was enjoying huge ratings in terms ofviewership, it was heartbreaking to see that Pakistanis could not enjoy watching their local as well as international players play these matches live from the cricket stadiums in Pakistan.
2017 – A positive year for Pakistan’s Cricket
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been taking numerous steps to restore international cricket in the country with the help of International Cricket Board (ICC).In 2015, it successfully convinced the Zimbabwean cricket team to tour Pakistan and play three one-day international and two T20 matches in the city of Lahore, Pakistan under heavy security arrangements. After that, the year 2017, particularly, proved to be a positive year for Pakistani cricket. The final match of the second season of the Pakistan Super League was hosted in Lahore, despite numerous concerns shown by the local people and international players. The situation got worse when most of the foreign players of the teams that qualified for the final match, refused to participate in it because of security concerns in the country. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board did not lose faith and went ahead with the successful hosting of this match. International players like former West Indian skipper Daren Sammy played a key role in spreading a positive word to the world for Pakistan.
After this, PCB organized another T20 series with the help of ICC in September 2017, this time with the team of World XI, being led by South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, in Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium. Later, the third T20 match of the three-match T20 international series with the Sri Lankan cricket team was also hosted in Lahore (the earlier two were played in UAE) in October 2017. This was the first time that any high-profile cricketing team had visited the country for the series since the terrorist attack in 2009. In 2018, the PCB decided to host last three matches of the third season of Pakistan Super League in Pakistan. The two eliminator matches were organized in Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium while the final was successfully held in National Stadium Karachi with around 30,000-35,000 people attending it. The amazing thing to witness was the huge number of people cheered with zeal and passion for their respective teams and showed how much they want the international cricket to return to their country.
What’s next for Pakistan’s Cricket?
The hard work being done by the Pakistan Cricket Board, the government and the security forces to restore international cricket in Pakistan and ensure safety of the players is highly commendable, However, a lot more needs to be done to develop the level of comfort and trust of the local people as well as the players especially international players, their boards and families, for participating in the matches in Pakistan. Currently, this is being done by spending huge amount of money to make the necessary security arrangements around the stadium and the overall city, thus occasionally bringing the city to standstill. There is no doubt that the Pakistan Cricket Board is doing everything in its power to ensure the revival of international cricket in the country. The international players and commentators who visit Pakistan, are also playing a huge role in showcasing a positive image of Pakistan to their followers around the world. However, it would be wrong to solely rely on them and expecting them to do everything on their own. It is now the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to address the underlying issues that disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in Pakistan. In addition to that, it must make necessary efforts to restore a positive image of the country on the world politics front, by reevaluating its policies to curb terrorism. Lastly, it has to ensure that peace in prevails in the country to the extent that Pakistan no longer needs to spend ample amount of money for the security arrangements while hosting a cricket match in the country.