Today is March 3, 2017. As the government, law enforcement agencies and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) finalise their plans for the PSL final, strangely no one remembered that today, exactly eight years ago, that unforgettable and barbaric incident happened at Liberty Roundabout in Lahore. 12 terrorists opened fire at the bus of the Sri Lankan cricket team and the officials, when they were on their way to resume play of the second Test match. Several players and match officials were injured in this brutal attack. It closed the doors for international cricket in Pakistan.
In 2015 PCB managed to convince Zimbabwe to come and play in Pakistan for two T20 matches and three One Day Internationals. This was a major breakthrough as after six years, a full ICC member was coming to Pakistan and subsequently would end years of cricket isolation.
No one can take cricket out of the hearts of Pakistani public and such was the excitement of the Zimbabwe series that the tickets for both T20 matches were sold out within 48 hours. Luckily I managed to get one ticket a few hours before the match. At that time Pakistan Army was successfully conducting an anti-terrorist operation in Waziristan and the peace situation in the country was far better compared to what it was a few years ago. But despite that, the Police and other law enforcement agencies had left no stone unturned to ensure a peaceful cricket series. Thank God, the cricket series ended without any mishap and the Zimbabwe team returned home safely.
In the year 2016, PCB finally fulfilled its long pending promise of starting their own T20 league: Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The first edition of the PSL took place in UAE, which is Pakistan’s adopted cricket home since international teams are reluctant to play in Pakistan. The first edition of the league ended with great success and brought many young Pakistani players to the limelight. The success of the inaugural PSL encouraged the organizers to hold the final match of the on-going PSL edition in Lahore with an aim and hope to open the doors of international cricket in Pakistan.
The second edition started in Dubai and it was going on normally until a series of bomb blasts took place in Lahore, Sehwan Sharif, Quetta and other cities. These blasts prompted the government to make a decision to either hold the final in Lahore or shift back to the alternate venue of Dubai. A series of meetings brought no result until it was decided that there will be no change in the venue and the final will take place in Lahore on 5th March 2017 at Qaddafi stadium.
After the final decision, Army, Police and other agencies have started their work to ensure a peaceful cricket match. Around 10,000 security officials are expected to be on duty. The match tickets are in huge demand and the stadium is expected to be packed. But what is the point in holding a final when the entire city will be on high alert? So far no high category foreign player has agreed to come and play in Pakistan except players of Peshawar Zalmi and that too depends if they qualify for the final. Even the official telecast company has refused to operate from Pakistan. Due to these security measures, all restaurants around Qaddafi stadium have been ordered to remain closed until the final match ends and traffic plans are in place to accommodate team and VVIP movements.
I have been a die heart supporter of Pakistan cricket and would never leave a chance to watch a cricket match live. Despite living in Lahore and in spite of getting my tickets arranged, this time, I will watch the match from home and would pray that the match takes place without any mishap.
Being a cricket follower, I predict that the return of international cricket is somewhere between three to five years away. But God forbid if any unfortunate event happens, the time frame may increase to ten to fifteen years.
Most importantly as a Pakistani citizen, I proudly own PSL. Just due to the rigid decision of the authorities holding the final in Lahore, what sort of message are we giving to the world? It is expected that there will be more security officials in the stadium compared to the number of spectators.