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Comment: Cricket craze reaches its zenith in Karachi

Updated March 24, 2018

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“I am not outgoing and I tend to avoid public places because everything is so crowded in Karachi and the traffic too is crazy,” a stereotypical Karachiite, with furrows on forehead from frequent frowning, told Dawn on the morning of March 15.

“But I’ll go watch the PSL final [at the National Stadium], if there are any tickets left when my turn comes,” he added as beads of sweat trickled down his sunburnt face and splattered on the floor outside a North Nazimabad TCS centre — where scores of cricket fans had queued.

This is the passion that Pakistan’s biggest city has for its biggest sport.

So when the Pakistan Super League 2018 final was awarded to the city of lights, its nearly 21 million residents were fully aware that it would come at a cost — and a huge one at that.

That the provincial exchequer will have to foot the bill of the stadium’s renovations and its surroundings, they knew. That on March 25 and the days leading up to it half their city will be locked down and in a state of curfew, they knew. That commutation would be a nightmare, they knew. That the deployment of thousands of security personnel for security detail of foreign cricketers could leave them vulnerable in other areas, they knew.

They knew all of that and still gladly embraced the chance to host what is clearly a double-edged sword. Because what’s a few days of hassle against unbridled, unconditional and all-consuming love for their favourite sport?

Mind you, the world over, the chance to host major sporting events spark bidding wars for the economic activity such spectacles can trigger. In fact, hosting rights to World Cups, European championships and Olympics are coveted more for the business they bring than their prestige. The tourism boost to the local economy as well as broadcasting rights make sure the initial outlay on infrastructure gets repaid in full and then some.

Hosting the PSL final is a different story. Any boost to local tourism will be negligible. Any money made won’t even cover a fraction of the 210 million the city has spent on its sole stadium and vicinity’s renovation. Come to think of it, Karachi is unlikely to get much (or any) economic benefit out of it. But then why let matters of money come in the way of true love. Karachi and cricket is true love. Let’s keep it that way... for now.

And so the city readies itself for the big Sunday.

The thoroughfares are caked with fresh layers of asphalt. The pavements have life-sized cardboard cutouts of PSL cricketers. There are billboards, there are murals, there are welcome signs. There are lights in the city of lights. There is life in the city of lights. And we have a 20-over cricket match to thank for it.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2018