A T20 series to thank for it

October 13, 2019

Is this the only way we could bring international cricket back to our country?

I had never explored Lahore the way I have now -- in my struggle to reach home, finding detours, bypassing the roadblocks, making my way through the streets.

I was born and bred in Lahore. But the cricket mess this whole past week kind of reintroduced my city to me.

Friday evening, I left Gymkhana for my home, and the deterrents spread all over seemed nothing but accurate. There was a massive traffic jam on the road. I saw two completely different outlooks among people -- the craving for cricket, and the itch to get home fast and quick.

There has been considerable resistance to Pakistan’s efforts to bring international cricket back. We are a country with a huge fan base for the sport, and we deserve to watch our team play international series at home. When Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced the limited-overs series with Sri Lanka in Lahore and Karachi, it brought immense joy to the common Pakistani. Unfortunately, with top Sri Lankan players’ refusal to come due to security threats, all our efforts seemed to be once again on the verge of getting ruined. But the fans seem to be content with the lesser players gracing our cricket grounds with a good game nonetheless.

As I opened my car window, I heard the roars and cheers from all over. I could sense the obvious precognition abilities Lahoris had about how the city was going to be in a curfew-like situation, and that commuting would be a nightmare. They knew that the deployment of thousands of security personnel for the foreign players on specified routes could leave them vulnerable in other areas.

We understood all that, and were still happy to embrace the chance to host the event. What is a few days of hassle compared to unbridled, unconditional, and all-consuming love for our favourite sport?

I could see the amazing decorations and sights the city had prepared for the Sri Lankan team. The roads were caked with new asphalt surfaces. The pavements had life-size cardboard cutouts of Pakistani players. There were billboards, murals, and welcome signs. The city felt livelier than ever. And we had a 20-over cricket match to thank for it!

Was this all? Am I supposed to act all proud and upbeat? Did I not see a sea of resentment on the same roads? Was I not tagged in social media posts broaching how their temporal lives had been disturbed? Are we ready to talk about the flip side of the picture?

For the very first time in my entire life, I had witnessed such lack of fixation for the game among many. I still doubt it. Was it really the lack of interest or the unseemly governance that made much of the nation rebut the revival of international cricket this way?

The question mark made me go through Twitter in order to shape my thoughts. The right to host World Cup tournaments, championships, and Olympics is coveted more for a country’s business than for its image. Tourism improving the local economy as well as broadcasting rights ensure full recovery of the initial outlay on services, but our story seemed to be a lot different. The blockage due to security checkpoints and traffic resulted in a lot of disruption for the locals. Reportedly, a SAT test centre failed to accommodate the exam, and postponed it. With the O/A Level exams in progress, students were faced with distress reaching their exam centres. What else can you imagine other than the emotional strain one’s family goes through with all of that?

Apart from these cases, the traffic issues involved more than these students. With the disruption in mobility, meetings, conferences, and events were cancelled. People who stayed back at home were mostly confused. Are we bringing international cricket back to our country this way, they asked. Is this the right way? Is there a better way? I leave these questions for you to answer.