I was 18 years old when the unforgettable happened at Liberty Roundabout in Lahore. The Sri Lankan cricket team and the match officials were on their way towards the Qaddafi Stadium to resume play of the second test match. Twelve terrorists opened fire on the team bus and the minivan which was carrying the match officials. Several players and match officials got injured. That day closed the doors for international cricket in Pakistan.
Six years later, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced that Zimbabwe has agreed to come and play in Pakistan for a two T20 matches and three One Day Internationals. This was indeed a major success as finally after six long years, a test playing nation was coming to Pakistan which would end the cricket isolation.
The tickets for both T20 matches got sold out within 48 hours. Luckily I got one just few hours before the match. Due to security reasons, the public was told to reach the ground at least three hours before the start. The efforts of the Police and other law enforcement agencies need to be acknowledged who despite of extreme heat were standing on duty and making sure that everything ends up peacefully, even officers of DSP level were seen on final entry points and checking the public manually who had already gone through the same procedure thrice while coming towards the stadium.
Entering into the stadium took me back to 2003 when my father took me and my brothers to watch the first one day between Pakistan and South Africa. A lot has changed during the last twelve years but that feeling of entering the ground and the love for Pakistani cricket fans for the game of cricket was exactly the same as it was twelve years ago. It was pleasing to see many people waving the Zimbabwean flag and many holding placards of saying “Thank You Zimbabwe”. Not to forget the jam packed stadium singing the National anthem as loudly as proudly as they have could and paying full respect to the Zimbabwean national anthem. Plus dancing continuously to the tunes of Jazba Junoon or even Gangnam style.
Coming back to the match, Anwar Ali got charged up and steamed in to bowl the first ball of the match to Hamilton Mazakadza. Steady in defense, the batsman blocked and so here it was, finally the isolation of six long years had ended.
One thing which still need to be checked is the prices of water bottles and cold drinks available inside the stadium. A simple 1.5 liter bottle of water was being sold at a rate of 200 rupees while 1.5 liter bottle of cold drinks at a rate of 300 rupees. When I asked for a written receipt from the vendor and said him to mention these prices, the vendor refused. Due to the extreme heat, the public had no option other than to purchase water bottles or cold drinks at this expensive price. The cricket board should look into this matter if they need to bring crowds for the remaining matches.
Six years is a long time and this day is just the first step towards getting everything back to normal. Yet everyone who is involved in organizing this series deserves equal amount of credit. And, yes, “Cricket Has Returned Home”.