The Roar
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Nine years’ wait

Roar Rookie
21st April, 2018
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Pakistan take on India in the CT final. (AFP PHOTO/ Aamir QURESHI)
Roar Rookie
21st April, 2018
7

Thar, the third largest desert in Asia, is located 728 kilometres away from Karachi. People living in that barren land seldom get the chance to enjoy one of nature’s greatest gifts – rain.

When they do get it, they gather together and cherish each drop.

Similarly, on Sunday, 25th March 2018, thousands of Karachiites flocked the National Stadium to watch their beloved game – cricket. It took them nine years of waiting until they had the opportunity to watch a cricketing spectacle of great magnitude. No wonder they missed cricket as the desert misses the rain.

The amenable crowd was ready to pay any price to make the event successful and to show the world that their city and country is safe to stage international matches. Elderly people, men, women, girls, boys and children with beaming smiles and excitement on their faces had no qualms in parking their cars in sandy and dusty parking yards, many kilometres away from the stadium and stand in long queues under scorching sun to catch the ‘shuttle’.

They were willing to go through numerous security checkpoints. Only a passionate cricket fan can take such hardships to watch a cricket match.

As I entered the stadium I saw Giles Clarke (former chairman of the England and Wales cricket board) along with an elegant looking English lady coming into the arena.

Talking to the media he said, “PCB’s determination to stage the PSL final in Karachi has enabled ICC to support the cricket board in Pakistan. We are delighted to support a very important member of ICC and it is a privilege to be here in Karachi. The atmosphere is fantastic here and we all are going to have a fantastic time.”

Commenting on the Windies tour of Pakistan he said, “West Indies is coming here and it is a great step forward, these are all important moves in bringing cricket back to Pakistan.”

I must admit, the scenario inside the stadium was quite different from outside. I saw a remarkable change in the stadium as far as facilities were concerned. Everything was top-notch, not to mention the conduct of volunteers and security personnel in dealing with spectators was excellent.

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When I last visited the place in October ‘17, except for the playing field, the stadium was in shambles. There was so much talk about the ‘Roofless NSK’ before the final. Actually, it looked fabulous without the outdated roof; especially at dusk when the light filtered through the giant structure.

Amid the electrifying atmosphere, as iconic Pakistani singers and performers displayed their art in front of a passionate, vehement and jam-packed crowd, Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi players limbered up and some knocked few balls before all important final.

After the closing ceremony, the DJ played Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of you’ and people started to sing along, which made me realise that Ed is quite big in Karachi.

On the field, Peshawar Zalmi batted first but could only muster 148 runs in allotted 20 overs. Wahab Riaz played a little cameo of 28 runs otherwise things would’ve been far worse for Zalmi.

During PSL 3 Luke Ronchi was in batting form of his life and his performance in the final was no different. His inside-out shot over extra cover for six and flick of the wrist towards midwicket for four were mesmerising. His swashbuckling 50 runs knock took the match away from Zalmis.

Infamous for his faulty wicket-keeping, the discarded Pakistan Test wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal had a terrific tournament with the bat, but it was again his wicketkeeping which let his team down and turned him from hero to zero. At a crucial juncture, he dropped Asif Ali and perhaps the PSL trophy.

I often wonder why Kamran Akmal ever decided to don wicket-keeping gloves when he could have done wonders with only the bat in his hands. Over the years wicket-keeping has done more harm than good to him.

Reminiscent of the style of their leader – Misbah-ul-Haq, Islamabad United reached their target – winning the PSL3 trophy without resorting to gimmickry. The victory is quite a feat considering the franchise has won twice in three editions of PSL.

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