KARACHI: Cricket has the sort of magnetic force that attracts communities irrespective of their backgrounds.
People forget their worries. They try to seek shelter in the sweet moments of the game for certain times which help them refresh before returning to their rigorous routine life. And star-power has a major role to play in attracting people to the game.
This correspondent interacted with groups of fans from Karachi and flood-affected areas of the Interior Sindh, who had come all the way to witness the first T20 of the seven-match series between Pakistan and England which began with the opener here at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Some, who faced huge physical and financial damages due to foods, were full of excitement to support their team in the series opener against England. They were waiting for the gates to open. And some were searching for tickets, not knowing how they will get them despite having come a long way from the Interior. They were seen mostly interested to talk on cricket and especially on the stardom of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who they thought, were the two big stars of the Pakistan team.
“Yes, I have come to see Babar and Rizwan as they are the finest players and have done well for the country in the last couple of years in T20 cricket while opening the innings,” Wisal Mohammad from Sangarh, whose family has suffered huge financial damages in the recent floods, told ‘The News’.
Mohammad Umar from Hyderabad said Babar and Rizwan are his favourites.
“I have come here to see Babar and Rizwan. Both are doing well. Rizwan is, too, fantastic a player and he has really impressed me with his batting in the Asia Cup recently,” Umar said.
A group of 12 friends from Hyderabad said that they had come all the way to see Rizwan and Babar.
“We have come from Hyderabad to see Rizwan and Babar as they are the top players of Pakistan team,” they said.
“The major thing in them is that they lead the whole team and mainly due to their opening partnerships Pakistan have been able to win so many matches,” they said.
Asked if Rizwan does not play in the opening game, then how they will feel, they replied: “It would be a big disappointment then.”
They also demanded of the national selectors to include hard-hitting opener Sharjeel Khan in the squad.
“We are desperately missing Sharjeel. He should be included in the team as he is a dashing cricketer and has also done well in Sindh’s title win in the National T20,” they said. On this one of his friends retorted that Sharjeel ‘lacks fitness.”
Hamid, a third-year student from Karachi, opined that Babar is his best player.
“He sees the ball well and is the most reliable player of Pakistan team,” Hamid said.
“Yes, he was out of form in the Asia Cup but I hope he will do well in the series against England,” Hamid said.
Most of the fans were set to see England for the first time as they are here after 17 long years since they had toured Pakistan way back in 2005 for a full-fledged series.
Cricket also helps people to earn their livelihoods. “I am happy that cricket is back in Karachi. In the PSL I would earn around Rs1500 per day and I hope my business will also run now during the series,” Sharif Hussain, who was selling face-masks, said.
Sarwar, who was seen busy in painting faces and hands of little fans and selling headbands carrying Pakistan’s flag, said he was excited to see cricket return.
“Its fine that I am back in the business,” Sarwar said. “I earned enough money in the PSL and hope to do it again now,” he said.
Tight security arrangements had been made with large contingents of police delivering their services at various spots around the stadium and on crucial points for a few kilometres. Security personnel from the SSU and Special Branch were delivering services at the venue premises.
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