The arrival of the Zimbabwe team has created a buzz in the city of Lahore which aims to wipe out the painful memories of the tragic incidents of 2009.
By Farid Khan (19th May, 2015)
Lights, Camera, Cricket! International cricket is back in Pakistan after a drought of six long years. There is joy all around and cricket fans in Pakistan are over the moon, with the news of the much anticipated arrival of the Zimbabwe team for their tour Pakistan. As a football fan, I’d put it this way, “The last time an international match was played in Pakistan, Liverpool still had the most English league titles.”
With the Zimbabwean team now safely settled in Lahore, the heart-rate of millions of cricket fans across the country must has increased a few notches. The security arrangements in place are top quality, and the fans, hungry to see the stadiums in Pakistan filled with international stars, have given a rousing response.
Almost all of the tickets for the first T20I have been sold out and a full house is expected at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to mark the arrival of international cricket in Pakistan. The tickets for the inaugural match of the series, which were initially available at all branches of Gourmet Bakers, are nowhere to be found; such is the craze among fans. Some are ringing their dear ones to arrange a few tickets for them, while others are flying from outside Pakistan to grab hold of them. Some are blaming the PCB for the high ticket prices, while others are hoarding them in numbers, just to make sure they don’t miss out on the action. The tickets range in price from Rs. 150 to Rs. 1500, and include the message “igniting a passion which brings a nation together”. The banners have been set on various roads of Lahore to provide awareness to the people of this very significant series. The fans have been giving a good account of their passion on social media. The hash-tag #CricketComesHome has been trending on Twitter for the last few days.
Zimbabwe will be provided with VIP security throughout their stay in Lahore. Armed guards, armed vehicle escorts and helicopter-monitoring of their travel in Lahore are part of the security arrangements. The Mall Road in Lahore has been blocked for public; that is where the Zimbabwe team will be staying in a private hotel. The Zimbabwe team will not be allowed to travel on the road other than when the matches are being played. They will be accompanied by top level security on their way to the stadium from the team hotel and the path has been blocked already to make sure there are no chances of unrest. Only senior police staff and a few PCB officials will know of the movement of the guest team and all irrelevant information will be kept away from the general public.
For some Lahoris, the Mall Road blockage is a cause of serious concern, but for most, who are cricket freaks, the revival of international cricket is remedy of the painful memories of the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team, which shut doors of international sporting events in Pakistan. There is a complete buzz around the city and people in Lahore are awaiting for the start of the series with anxiousness. It is like spring coming to Pakistan after six long years of autumn. For Karachiites and those who live in Islamabad, their souls are in their respective cities, but their hearts are beating in Lahore. As much as they wanted cricket to be played in their cities, they are hopeful of a remarkable turn-out in Lahore. In all this excitement, one must not forget the determination and courage of the Zimbabwe team, who despite some reservations have landed in Pakistan, knowing fully well that their endeavours could pave way for more international series in the future. Regardless of the outcome of the series, the Zimbabwe players are already heroes in the hearts of all Pakistanis.