Pakistan, an eight year hiatus and the return of cricket
September 11th, 2017
Image: Business Recorder
As the British continued to expand their territory by colonising South Asia, they eventually brought along their cultures and traditions. One such tradition which the folks of the subcontinent took a particular liking to was the game of cricket.
Having originated in south-east England, the gentleman’s game became England’s national sport in the 18th century. As colonies living under the British Empire, the people in the subcontinent became accustomed to the game long before it was commercialised. It has been seventy long years since the British left, but the love for the sport has only intensified here. So much so that out of the ten top cricket-playing nations across the world, four of them come from the subcontinent in the form of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Three of the four countries mentioned above have also reached the pinnacle of cricketing glory by lifting the ICC World Cup (India-1983, 2011; Pakistan-1992; Sri Lanka-1996). The game is played and followed with great intensity and serious passion in this part of the world. Cricketers are treated like celebrities and serve as role models and icons for their generation. Add to it, the heated rivalry between India-Pakistan and you will understand why it is so much more than just a game here.
Cricket in Pakistan
Pakistan, a country formed in 1947 after the partition of India, has been blessed with geographic beauty and cursed with militant organisation threats. The state nonetheless has prevailed against multiple foreign and domestic attempts of violence, and the due credit for that goes to none other than the common mass who have had to endure it all.
Cricket fortunately for Pakistan has only brought great joy to the country for years. Be it them winning the 1992 World Cup, or having a pack of fearsome fast bowlers that terrorised the biggest batsmen across the cricketing world or having a better head-to-head record against arch-rivals India; it has been cricket that has never let them down. So it was with great grief that the world saw international cricket being snatched away from the Pakistanis after the terror attack of 2009. A militant group attacked the Sri Lankan Cricket team bus and left several players injured. It caused havoc in the cricketing society, and all countries immediately cancelled their tours of Pakistan owing to safety reasons.
The Sri Lankan players recovered, and world cricket had to move on after abandoning their proud son, the cricket team of Pakistan. As time marched on and cricket put behind it its darkest chapter, the greatest affected ones were the Pakistani cricket lovers. Cricket had been taken away from them through no fault of their own.
A six-year barren spell followed as Pakistan had to play all their home matches in the middle east and the passionate cricket lovers of Lahore and Islamabad had to tune in to their 20”-TV channels to watch their favourite players. Finally, in the summer of 2015, a small tour for the Zimbabwean team was arranged. It failed to spark the interest of many, and the other nations of the world still refused to visit Pakistan.
An attack by a group of terrorists that injured a handful had left an entire nation scarred for years.
Jump forward to the September of 2017, and after months of careful planning, the ICC has finally managed to bring cricket back to Pakistan. They have taken the initiative to plan a trip for an ICC XI to Pakistan to play a T20 series against the hosts. ICC director Giles Clarke spoke of the council’s concern and effort to bring cricket back to a nation full of cricket frenzies.“The terrorists cannot win-cricket
“The terrorists cannot win-cricket must not give up on Pakistan”, he was quoted saying. Clarke understands that for cricket to survive in Pakistan the youth need to be inspired and the Pakistani team playing all their fixtures away from home will not help that cause.
This occasion marks an event of great significance in the Pakistani Cricket world. Since the team’s 2009 debacle, they have had to play all their games away from home. It has not only lowered the fan following of the game in the country but has had two severe effects; the mentality and the passion of the existing crop of cricketers and the generation to follow. Pakistan cricket team has always been known for their aggressive and tough-minded approach to games.
The likes of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram always fought till the last run was scored, or the last ball was bowled. Their explosive attitude and never-say-die spirit are what made the core of the team. However, the recent teams of Pakistan have looked lacklustre and empty on several occasions. They lack the will to fight and have often thrown away matches from winning positions.
One primary cause for such a drastic change in their attitude towards cricket can be attributed to the fact that this team lacks a home support. Playing in a jam packed stadium in Lahore is very different from playing in a neutral venue like Dubai with a stadium that is two-thirds empty. The cricketers are tired of travelling, living and playing in foreign conditions. They need to feel the comfort of home to boost them up before matches and nothing can charge up the adrenaline of a sportsman when a 50,000 strong crowd is chanting your name in a tense situation, as would happen in Pakistan.
The second major issue is the generation to follow. The youth of Pakistan has not seen an international match being played in their vicinity for nearly eight years. They have not experienced the fame and love the cricketers receive from the people. They have not seen their favourite cricketers warming up for hours before an important match. Cricket has been snatched away from them, and they have moved away looking for other sources of passion and joy.
Cricket is dying in Pakistan. Thus this occasion marks an important date in the history of Pakistan cricket. They are being given another chance to revive the game they love so dearly after an eight-year hiatus, and perhaps the world will yet again get to see another Shoaib Akhtar rampaging up and down the pitch after hitting the timber with a delivery that just clocked 160 kmps.
The Independence Cup
The Independence Cup is a three match T20 series to be played between Pakistan and World XI. The World XI coached by Andy Flower and led by Faf Du Plessis boasts of some serious cricketing talent with the likes of Hashim Amla, George Bailey, David Miller, Darren Sammy, Paul Collingwood joining their ranks. The Pakistan national team will be led by Sarfraz Ahmed with Shoaib Malik carrying the quota of the most experienced player for them. All three matches are to be played in Lahore between 12th and 15th of September.