LAHORE :Just after a lapse of five months, the city is once again in a grip of cricket frenzy as cricket-starved citizens obsessed with the game are finalising plans to witness the return of international cricket while the government is busy in decorating the city and arranging foolproof security.
The city has earlier witnessed the same enthusiasm for cricket during the final of Pakistan Super League, which was held in March this year at the same Gaddafi Stadium. The upcoming event besides providing three days of non-stop entertainment to the citizens will also broadcast the soft image of the country, which is very necessary to bring back International Cricket in local grounds.
Though strict security arrangements have been taken, citizens especially youths and cricket lovers are determined to reach Gaddafi Stadium in time to be part of these historical events. Lahore’s administration in collaboration with several private companies have also decorated city roads with colourful banners thanking the ICC and World XI for coming to Lahore to play the upcoming series.
Green belts along the Canal Bank Road are decorated with white bright lights while canal is decorated with colourful lights, which is presenting a very beautiful sight to the passersby and road users. Colourful banners, posters and steamers regarding the upcoming event can be witnessed on The Mall, Canal Bank Road, Jail Road, Ferozpur Road and many other areas.
Several city restaurants/hotels have already announced installing big screens on their premises to show live broadcast of matches and are making advance bookings on high rates from the citizens while some cinemas have also announced similar shows.
Long queues were witnessed outside banks selling tickets of the matches and those who had been lucky enough to get a ticket were posting their selfies with the tickets on social media. Many shops are also found selling Pakistan team’s shirts, caps, badges and other souvenirs.
Eateries across the city have also announced special offers for their customers during the festivity, said Ch Shafique, Secretary General of Lahore Restaurant Association (LRA) while talking with The News. He said during the PSL final match in March this year it was a challenge to get a table as thousands, who had travelled to Lahore to watch the final, took some time out to explore the food Lahore is known for. “The event will surely revive international cricket in the country but we should not make this festivity colourless by shutting down nearby restaurants/hotels,” he said, suggesting the government to double check the security of restaurants/hotels in and around the venue but keep them working.
“Cricket is like oxygen for us and one can witness this in the city,” said Khwaja Awais, a resident of old Anarkali. He said he got tickets of all the three matches on very high rates and will go to the stadium with his family.
The teams and their officials arrived in Lahore on Monday and were taken to hotel under strict security. Police blocked several roads and kept the citizens standing in hot and humid weather for a long time especially at The Mall, Canal Bank Road, Jail Road and Ferozpur Road.
“If cricket is returning back, I never mind standing in hot weather all day,” said Mustafa, a student standing on his bike on The Mall. He said security is the need of the hour and today’s pain will give us a long lasting reward in the shape of international cricket.
Social media and broadcast media have also become part of the cricket frenzy as every talk show, every news package, every hourly news headline was centered around the upcoming mega event. Special transmissions with special packages were also planned while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites were also full of cricket related posts.
“#PAKvWXI Cricket is in the air.. can smell it feel it..Pakistan r u ready to bounce and make some noise..” was the tweet of Ramiz Raja. Other local and international cricketers also tweeted and shared posts on Facebook and other social media sites regarding the event.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government will launch free shuttle service to facilitate the cricket lovers from selected spots to the stadium while traffic police have advertised complete route map of the venue along with designated parking facilities.
Similarly, Lahore Lord Mayor, Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and other senior officials also paid repeated visits to the venue as well as in the city to finalise security, traffic and parking facilities.