RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa vowed Wednesday to ensure surefire security for visiting cricket teams in order to perpetually revive international cricket in Pakistan.
With his extremely confident tone, General Bajwa told Pakistan team, and PCB top officials that Pakistan Army would guarantee holding of international matches everywhere in Pakistan. "Army has done it in the past, and it would do it in the future to ensure peaceful holding of international matches in Pakistan."
COAS Bajwa, whose knowledge of the game of cricket with his memories and critical analysis of the technicalities of the game impressed all, had a long chat with the Champions Trophy winning Pakistan Team, PCB top officials over hi-tea on the occasion of a reception at sprawling Army's Guest House, adjacent to his official residence on the Golf Road.
General Bajwa hugged and had handshakes with each and every member of "Sarfraz Brigade" and encouraged captain Sarfraz Ahmed to maintain the winning streak with the unique display of talent as the team had shown in the final of CT17 at Oval against India.
The reception was attended by Pakistan Team and its officials, articulate ever-smiling ISPR DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan and his cricket-loving wife Minno, PSL and PCB Executive Committee Chairman Najam Sethi and his elegant wife Jugno Mohsin, members of PCB Governing Board Shakil Shaikh, Maj (R) Naeem Akhtar Gilani, National Selection Committee headed by Inzimamul Haq and senior military officials and others. Family of the Army Chief including his wife and sons were also present to honour the Pakistan team and expressed their joy and happiness over grand CT17 win by Pakistan and its brave lads led by Sarfraz Ahmed, a contented national team captain.
From captain to youngest national team player Shahdab Khan, and seniors like Shoaib Malik, Azhar Ali, Muhammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim and Wahab Riaz, General Bajwa declared them heroes of the nation. "We have two types of heroes - soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the nation and the people, and cricket heroes who brought laurels for the country with their unique effort to enhance Pakistan's image in the world of sports," said General Bajwa in his formal concluding address to the participants.
Many termed COAS General Bajwa "Icon of modesty, humbleness and an ardent lover of the game" coupled with his outlook as every-inch soldier who has been fighting a war on many fronts - terrorism, militancy, Pakistan's enemies and those trying to tarnish image of the most potent and one of the world's best Army - Pakistan Army.
General Bajwa shared his memories attached with cricket right from the days he played for services and recalled with accurate stats of the matches he played or watched all these years. "You should not repent to get out after making half century," Army Chief told Azhar Ali, while at the same moment he showered praise on the aggressive style of Fakhar Zaman, who hit ton in the final. "You belong to area near to my home town," COAS told speedster Hassan Ali, who fired all cylinders against India in the final and bagged man of the final match and best player of the CT.
His memories of 1992 World Cup, and that of some former top quality cricketers and their techniques were something spell-bound that Najam Sethi said in his address that he has not seen an Army Chief more knowledgeable about the game of cricket than General Bajwa.
COAS recalled his interaction with Sir Viv Rishards and Ian Chappel who told him that he is the most knowledgeable about cricket. "I asked Wasim Akram (who came to meet him sometime back) as to why he did some alleged wrong in 1996," General Bajwa recalled, "Wasim told him that people tried to stick such allegations on him out of sheer opposition."
Army Chief paid full respect and got applause from every one for his gentle interaction with all. He shared and chatted with all those whom he decorated with shields and mementoes of General Headquarters and Chief of Army Staff.
"Form is temporary, class is permanent," the COAS told Ahmed Shahzad in an obvious effort to boost up his morale, while recalling the moment when Director Cricket Harooon Rashid used to play cricket. He encouraged Wahab Riaz, Fahim Ashraf, Haris Sohail as well. "Are you also trying to emulate Umer Akmal by getting out on a reckless shot after making some runs," COAS asked little shy Babar Azam. COAS lauded the talent and ability of Shoaib Malik as well with full of praise for the leadership of captain, Sarfraz Ahmed.
Army Chief also recalled the batting sensations of Inzimamul Haq and his getting run out on many occasions. "I am ensuring to select only those fittest ones who do not get run out," Inzamam replied to COAS remarks.
General Bajwa patted Wasti for his excellent batting against New Zealand with recalling how good offspinner Touseef Ahmed bowled at Banglore along with Banglore Hero left arm spinner Iqbal Qasim, which ripped through Indian batting power house. "Chief always hit six," remarked ISPR DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor at a time when General Bajwa was recalling his batting blitz against PACO in his young age while playing for services in the Patron's Trophy.
Both PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan and PSL Chairman and PCB Executive Committee Najam Sethi thanked the Army Chief for honouring the team and unfolded future plans of PCB to hold international matches in Pakistan including visit of the World XI in September this year and several PSL matches in Karachi and Lahore. They lauded efforts of General Bajwa and Pakistan Army for uprooting the menace of terrorism and militancy from the country and providing security and peace to the people.
In its formal statement, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the COAS hailed outstanding performance of Pakistan team and the management which brought much-awaited jubilations for the entire nation. He asked them to stay humble, continue working hard and be upright as they are the ambassadors of Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, PCB chairman thanked COAS for his support in bringing back the game of cricket to Pakistan. Najam Sethi thanked COAS for all-out support for holding PSL final in Lahore.
The players thanked COAS for honouring them and great contributions and sacrifices of Pakistan Army in war against terrorism and ongoing efforts for making Pakistan secure. He also announced Umra package for all the members of the Pakistan Team, which he promised when Pakistan outclassed India in the CT17 final.
It was a simple but highly impressive occasion with Army band played beautiful tunes to entertain the guests.