I am writing to you to request your attention towards an issue that affects me in the capacity of a regular cricket spectator and a fan. As you know that Pakistan has been deprived of competitive international cricket for over 6 years now, the wait for cricket fans like myself is becoming increasingly painful to see international action in our grounds. Even though your efforts did result in making the Zimbabwean cricket team tour Pakistan for a couple of T20s and 3 ODIs earlier this year, consistency needs to be ensured and the success of that tour needs to be promoted much more until other cricketing nations are persuaded by the ICC or willingly agree to visit Pakistan.
In the same regard, your efforts to organize the Pakistan Super League (PSL) are highly appreciable, however what’s disappointing as a Pakistani is to watch this mega tournament also being organized outside Pakistan. Countries like India are churning out such good talent from their domestic system primarily because of the exposure these youngsters get from playing alongside international players in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) which is staged largely in India. I understand that the Middle East has served us wonderfully well in terms of letting us call their venues our home grounds but the reality of the matter is that home is where the home crowd is and that means home soil.
I remember watching the first day and night ODI at the National Stadium Karachi held between Pakistan and England from the Nasim ul Ghani Enclosure. It was Tuesday, 24th October 2000 and we took special permission from our school to leave early as we wanted to reach the ground as early as possible. I clearly remember having to travel on foot from Hassan Square till the stadium gate as there was no space on the road for traffic to move. It was an absolute sea of people flooding the road and all that we were worried about was sticking together as a group and not getting lost in the crowd. The passion of the crowd was as intense as the sun beating down that afternoon. Even though we had reached the stadium before the start of the game but the journey from the entrance gate to the enclosure was around 15 overs long and by the time we could see our first LIVE ball from the stand, Pakistan had already lost 2 wickets (Saeed Anwar and Saleem Elahi).
I have mentioned the above experience only to highlight the passion and appetite for competitive cricket this nation has and how starved we are to see international stars perform on our grounds. And it’s not just the about the local spectators, just imagine how great it would’ve felt for both the fans and Younus Khan himself had he become the highest test run-scorer for Pakistan by hitting a six off Moeen Ali at Rawalpindi instead of Abu Dhabi.
Over the last 6 years, so many young cricketers have made their debuts without having their home crowd cheer their first run or them having pointed towards a loved one in the crowd after taking the first international wicket. It is sad. International cricket isn’t only limited to the ODIs, International T20s and Test Matches, it also has a lot to do with the side matches the foreign teams play when they arrive on tour to a country. These 3 or 4 day matches give opportunity to a country to build reinforcement in terms of their bench-strength and also provide a chance for non-playing talents like umpires etc. to get developed.
As a regular cricket fan, I envy every international cricket fan who has the liberty to go to a cricket ground in their country and watch:
- A. B. De Villiers completely destroy a bowling attack
- A Lasith Malinga in swinging yorker
- A Mitchell Johnson express spell of bowling
- A Brendon McCullum stunner behind the stumps
- Imran Tahir confuse a batsman out
International cricket on home soil not only provides entertainment to the local crowds but also attracts revenue and opportunity for business and employment to the local communities. It is literally a gala around the stadium where an international match is being hosted. Families come in, have fun and enjoy their time for reasons other than cricket also as the atmosphere is so amusing. The samosa wala roaming around in the stands, the biryani stall outside the enclosure, the face painter ‘painting the town green’, the placard and poster sellers at the entrance of the ground, all of them are linked with international cricket coming to Pakistan.
I would humbly request you to take as much interest in resuming international cricket in Pakistan as you had shown in trying to convince India to play cricket against us. It is most definitely far more worth than that.
Hammad A. Mateen