The excitement in the air was palpable as the city’s residents braced for an exciting finale of the third edition of the Pakistan Super League on Sunday, which was played in Karachi’s National Stadium for the first time since the championship began.
Hundreds of spectators queued up dutifully at the designated shuttle pick-up spots throughout the day to head to the stadium to watch the finalists, the Darren Sammy-led Peshawar Zalmi and the Misbahul Haq-led Islamabad United, battle it out for the trophy.
The city’s love for cricket shined through as fans braved the long walk from the shuttle drop-off sites despite the blazing sun and multiple security checks.
The long lines of spectators were a myriad of colours, as fans decked up in colours of their favourite teams or the green Pakistani flag, queued up to enter the stadium at least seven hours before the start of the match. The venue was completely packed with two hours remaining in the game, Geo News reported.
A welcome respite
“I am supporting both Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi today. I am supporting Pakistan cricket because whoever wins, it will be a victory for Pakistan cricket,” said Sadaf who arrived at the stadium some five hours ahead to grab her seat in the Zaheer Abbas enclosure.
To facilitate the fans, the local administration had arranged shuttle services to the stadium from various parking spots. The spectators had to go through security checks on at least five spots ensuring fool-proof security.
“It was a warm day, but it is okay. We had to go through security checks but it was necessary. We must cooperate with authorities. I am sure with more matches being played here, things will get smooth,” said Zahid who was sitting at the Hanif Mohammad enclosure.
Shahid Akhtar Hashmi, a journalist who reports for the news agency AFP, said that the match was very memorable for him, not just as a journalist but also as a father. “I covered the last match here nine years ago. My kids grew up without watching any game here and today they are here in the stands and enjoying every bit of the match,” said Hashmi.
An enthralling final ceremony greeted spectators at the stadium before the match began at 8pm. In his opening remarks, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi welcomed the spectators at the ceremony and expressed his gratitude to the security forces for providing top-notch security for the event.
The PCB chairman requested fans to show the same passion in the series against West Indies, to be played a week later at the same ground.
The country’s leading musicians including Ali Zafar, Aima Baig, Shehzad Roy and Aima Baig then took the stage and performed to wild applause from the audience.
Moreover, for those who were not lucky enough to be able to secure seats for the much-anticipated match, the city offered several alternatives as large screens were played in various malls, educational institutes and cultural centres welcoming cricket lovers to watch the match there with their friends and families.
The match was screened live at the open air theatre of the Arts Council, in Port Grand, Infinitea, The Grid, Wired Inn, Burridos, University of Karachi, IBA Amir Chinoy Amphitheatre, Five Star Chowrangi in North Nazimabad, Hussainabad, Liaqauatabad no 4, Sindhi Hotel in New Karachi and several other establishments.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, who along with Governor Mohammad Zubair and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other dignitaries, enjoyed the match from the VIP enclosure at night, monitored the preparations at the stadium earlier in the day.
In a final visit to the National Stadium from a helicopter, the CM inspected its parking and entry/exit routes and directed the local authorities to ensure they leave no stone unturned in facilitating the spectators.
According to a spokesperson, Shah left for the inspection in the helicopter from Commerce College. Several roads leading up to the stadium had been closed off for security reasons, as per the traffic plan that was issued earlier this week.
Over 8,000 cops, including 800 Special Security Unit (SSU) commandoes, and personnel from other law-enforcement agencies performed duties at designated places in the city including the stadium, Karachi airport, important routes, parking lots, hotels and other places. Sharp shooters were also deployed at different places.
SSU chied Maqsood Memon had told a media briefing on Saturday it was a matter of great pleasure that international players were coming to Karachi after a long time and the field of sports was being revived. “All of us have to work together to prove that life has been restored and Karachi is a peaceful city.”
Memon said all departments had worked day and night to organise this mega event, for which no previous example existed. The mega event could not have been organised successfully without the cooperation of the media and the public. SSU chief Memon said SP Ghulam Murtaza Tabassum would perform duties as chief security officer of the teams.
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