A comprehensive victory

October 31,2017

Even as the number of international cricket matches played in Pakistan increases, from the Zimbabwe tour in 2015 to the PSL final and World XI matches, there was a special poignancy to the return of...

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Even as the number of international cricket matches played in Pakistan increases, from the Zimbabwe tour in 2015 to the PSL final and World XI matches, there was a special poignancy to the return of the Sri Lankan side for the first time since its team was attacked by militants in 2009. The occasion was so important that even the Sri Lanka cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala flew down to Lahore with his side. That a team which went through the traumatic near-death experience of a terrorist attack now feels safe enough to return can only augur well for the future of international cricket in the country. The occasion was a bittersweet one as Sumathipala met with Meher Khalil, the extraordinarily brave bus driver whose courage prevented causalities on that day, and invited him to accompany our team on our next tour of Sri Lanka. The match itself went off without incident and was enjoyed by a sporting crowd waving Sri Lankan flags. The gradual return of international cricket will provide an immediate boost to the country, where many felt our exile would lead to a gradual decrease in cricket fandom. Now that the children of today can see their heroes play at the highest level in the flesh such worries should recede. The day after the match, PCB Chairman Najam Sethi announced that the Emerging Players Asia Cup would be held in Pakistan next April. Should we be able to host a tournament successfully, fears about Pakistan as a venue will be further soothed.

Amidst the goodwill and general cheer, the result of the match itself was hardly a priority. Pakistan’s comprehensive victory, with Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Amir dominating with bat and ball respectively, was the cherry on the cake. The win completed our sweep of the limited-overs game – surely a relief to everyone after being whitewashed in the Test series. Emerging talents like Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan cemented their places in the team and the cheers they received in Lahore showed that they have won over a new generation of fans. The next step should be an attempt to hold matches in other cities. So far, international teams have only agreed to play in Lahore because of its vast security infrastructure, including one of the most advanced CCTV systems in the world. The onus, of course, will be on the teams themselves to decide if they feel safe in other cities but an attempt must be made to bring cricket to the rest of the country. Till then we can still rejoice in the matches that are played here. The ability of cricket to lift our spirits was shown in Lahore on Sunday and for that we will not soon forget the generosity of our Sri Lankan visitors.


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