It’s a little after noon in Karachi. Mother Sun is in one of her moods. She’s angrier than usual. Everyone’s glistening but no one has moved an inch in 30 minutes, probably even 40. Who’s counting anyway? Everyone’s too busy melting.
If the word standstill had a visual definition, it would be the University Road. After the recent bout of rains, the thoroughfare has started to look more like a dirt road but that’s a debate for another day.
For now, the setting has thousands of commuters stuck on the strip at the mercy of nature, with each dripping face telling their own late-for-somewhere story.
All this because some men from an island down south could play ball with some locals at a fortress nearby under near curfew-like situation.
Despite the direction this preamble appears to be taking, it is not my agenda to imply that cricket should not be played on these shores — even if it necessitates lockdowns and makes lives for so many so miserable. Beggars can’t be choosers and unfortunately, after what happened in 2009, we do not have a choice.
To mend the broken reputation and to bring international cricket to Pakistan, it absolutely is necessary to adopt such security protocols.
And what of the unlucky folks who live in the National Stadium’s surroundings?
On matchdays, they are not allowed to use certain routes to their own homes. In some cases, home owners are not permitted to go into their own balconies just because it looks directly into the stadium and could be a security threat.
These are extraordinary sacrifices that hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are giving — mostly involuntarily — to make sure that the Sri Lankan team’s stay here remains comfortable.
It’s common for all top-level athletes around the world to enjoy celebrity status and get VVIP treatment wherever they go. The visiting Sri Lankan team must have been afforded that treatment elsewhere. But the importance they are getting in Pakistan is unprecedented for any set of athletes anywhere.
From the night of September 24 when they set foot in Karachi to the day of October 10 when they leave from Lahore, these 17 men from various parts of Sri Lanka will be the most important 17 men in Pakistan. Do they know that?
And even if the Pakistan Cricket Board insists that it is not paying Sri Lanka anything for their visit, their visit is actually being paid for in tears, sweat and blood by children who are stuck in their vans, men who can’t reach their offices in time, patients who need medical attention, and many more.
If not for the PCB or the love of the game then for the thousands of commoners, this Sri Lankan team and other nations should realise that on this land, cricket is considered worth making your life a living hell.
How can you then deprive these cricket crazies of what they so crave?