FOR decades Karachi has been the focal point of various discourses due to its intriguing political dynamics. But over the past few weeks, the metropolis has been under discussion because of the return of high-profile cricket to the city.
The National Stadium Karachi (NSK) has been a venue to some of the remarkable individual and team performances.
Whether it was Sir Vivian Richards’ jaw-dropping 181 off 125 balls against Sri Lanka during the 1987 World Cup or India’s riveting five-run win over the hosts during their historic tour Pakistan in 2004, every memory is still alive in the hearts and minds of the cricket lovers.
The stadium, on Sunday, will leave another ever-lasting memory for the Pakistani fans as it will host the final of the third edition of the Pakistan Super League between Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi.
The watershed contest will not only bring back the top-flight cricket to the ‘city of lights’ after a nine-year drought, it will also open the doors for the return of international cricket to the city. A smooth execution of this match will bring the West Indies to Karachi in a week’s time for a three-match T20I series which is another piece of blockbuster news for the cricket-starved fans of the metropolis.
The stadium remained heavily-guarded by legions of paramilitary and other law-enforcement forces on the eve of the contest as the security personnel easily outnumbered the journalists, broadcasters, and the ground staff inside the complex. Perhaps, it is the need of the hour.
The ground received its final touches as the ground staff erected electronic advertising boards to demarcate the playing field and painted sponsors’ logos on both sides of the square.
The men in the mint-coloured clothing had prepared three pitches, the one in the center for the contest and the other two on either sides, before Saturday for the last practice session.
But the big question remains whether the stadium, which has been under renovation since the last year, absolutely ready to host a match of this magnitude and accommodate thousands of cricket-mad fans ready to pack it like sardines come Sunday, March 25th?
The fans have been told by the organisers to take the seats in the roof-less enclosures before 5.00pm on what is forecasted to be one of the hottest days of the week. The temperatures are expected to range from 37-35 degree Celsius from mid-day till the evening on Sunday.
To help fans fight the harshness of the weather, the organisers have installed numerous watercoolers all along the ground. Moreover, every enclosure have been given its own screen so the crowd gets to witness the action up-close.
Joking about the NSK’s topless structure, one foreigner in the broadcast team enquired about the rain forecast for the match day as he set his camera in front of the media box.
The stadium was supposed to have a roof when the plans of its renovation were first laid down after Karachi was announced as a venue for the final in mid-2017. But, soon the board realised that laying a roof during this time period was an unattainable task.
But, come rain or a thunderstorm, the absence of the ceiling above their heads will not really bother the fans, simply because they are hungry for cricket and their emotions running high for the exciting battle in the middle.
Those who have gotten hold of the tickets — which have been the most sought-after property in the city during the past two weeks — are bragging about their possessions on the social media. Those, who remained unlucky, fulfilled their hunger of the game by posing in front of the players’ posters at the pedestrian paths.
The thrilling moment that the Karachiites have longed for almost a decade has finally arrived.
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2018