THE most exciting moment for which millions of Karachiites had been waiting for nearly a year finally arrived here on Sunday when the National Stadium (NSK) hosted the final of the third edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United.
Definite plans to host the marquee contest in Karachi had been unveiled by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) right after the success of the PSL final in Lahore last year and since then, the residents of the city had vowed to make the grand event, the first of this scale and magnitude held here in nine years, a thumping success. And they sure did make a success of it with their spirit, enthusiasm, discipline, tolerance and celebrations.
Sunday, March 25th was forecasted to be one of the hottest days of the week and the sun did not let the meteorological department down. However, that did nothing to deter the determined fans who thronged the arena that underwent a major uplift recently.
“The atmosphere around the stadium since the past two, three days makes me feel like that Karachi has come to life again and I wish this feeling stays in the city forever,” said Taqi Naqvi, a BBA student at the Iqra University, who wore an Islamabad United jersey. “The last time I was here was during the Test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.”
It was the last time that the city hosted international cricket. Days later, the Sri Lankan team came under attack on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore which put a gruesome halt on the international cricket in the country.
But, Sunday was a day of joy for the Karachiites. Their calm at the shuttle drop-points was exemplary as coasters arrived in tandem. As the fans lined up at the gates of the stadium, they chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans while getting their tickets checked by the security personnel with army helicopters hovering above them.
The organisers had scheduled to close the gates by 5.00pm, but the deadline for the fans to fill the stadium was extended by two hours.
“This is the first time I am coming to the NSK to witness a high-profile match and it is a great feeling,” said Shahrukh Ajmal.
Dressed in a red-coloured suit, Ajmal, a supporter of Islamabad United had been eagerly waiting for the PSL final. “We have been waiting for the tickets to go on sale since the start of the PSL. We did have to struggle to get our hands on the tickets, but in the end it was worth all the hassle.
“I am looking forward to watch [Luke] Ronchi smack sixes. I want to see Misbah-ul-Haq but, of course, I don’t think I will be able to watch him play as he is injured. Same is the case with Rumman Raees. I am here to support Islamabad United and I hope they turn out to be the champions.”
Many were reminded of the days when the NSK was limited to host domestic T20 competitions. One of them was Tariq, a resident of New Karachi. “This is the second time I am coming to the NSK. Previously, I had come here to watch the domestic T20 competitions when teams like Karachi Dophins used to play,” he said as he walked to the stadium from the drop-off point at the Expo Center. “The security is fantastic and I have had no trouble in approaching the ground.”
Ajmal also praised the security arrangements. “Everything is very smooth and all of the law-enforcement agencies have cooperated with us,” she said. “The security is brilliant. The Rangers and Police are doing the patrol and because of their presence we have nothing to fear about.”
But, a delay in the start of the shuttle service from the Federal Urdu University bothered the 21-year-old Naqvi. “Everything is fine here but I had to face some inconvenience since the shuttle was supposed to leave its starting point at 12.00pm but it left at 1:30pm.”
But such lapses were put behind by the cricket-mad fans as they had made their way to the stadium to watch the most sought-after cricketers in action.
They cheered every ball. They cheered every shot because, it was more than just a cricket match for them. The Karachiites had turned out for a bigger cause — the revival of the game in their own city, the city of lights.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2018