By Zahid Hussain The last time Karachi hosted an international cricket match it was against Sri Lanka in February 2009. Days later, on March 3, militants targeted the touring team on their way to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. Seven Lankan players, an assistant coach and an umpire were injured in the ambush. Six policemen were killed....
By Zahid Hussain
The last time Karachi hosted an international cricket match it was against Sri Lanka in February 2009. Days later, on March 3, militants targeted the touring team on their way to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
Seven Lankan players, an assistant coach and an umpire were injured in the ambush. Six policemen were killed. The day Pakistan became a pariah among cricketing nations. Since then, it has been forced to play at neutral venues, mostly in the UAE.
An entire generation of cricket-crazy Pakistanis has never seen their favorites play in the flesh.
It was only until 2014 that the tide started to turn. A military offensive was launched that year in the tribal areas and gradually improved the security environment in the country. Since then, there have been fewer terrorist attacks.
This prompted Pakistan cricket officials to work on reviving international cricket. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s first major success came in 2015 when Zimbabwe agreed to play a three-match one-day series in June, the first since the Lahore attack. All three matches were played in Lahore and the tour was completed despite a suicide attack outside the stadium.
The short series was not, however, the end goal. Major Test nations still refused to tour Pakistan.
The next major breakthrough came in March 2017 when the final of the second edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) was played in Lahore. The PCB invited the International Cricket Council and international experts to witness the game and security management during the final.
The success of PSL’s final led to a three-match Twenty20 series against a star-studded World XI in September 2017. Lahore was the venue. A month later, Sri Lanka became the first major Test team to tour Pakistan for a one-off T20 match. Lahore was the venue again.
The PCB was, however, strongly criticized, and rightly so, by the cricket world, media and public for ignoring the country’s biggest city and commercial capital. Karachi has experienced even fewer terrorist attacks than Lahore in recent years. And it was the job of PCB officials to present Karachi as a peaceful cricket destination.
And so, a painful nine-year-long wait is about to end on Sunday, March 25 when Karachi will host the grand final of the third edition of the PSL between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United.
Five days later, Karachi’s National Stadium will host three back-to-back T20 games against the West Indies. The Windies are the reigning World Twenty20 champions since winning the title in India in 2016.
“It’s good news that West Indies have confirmed three Twenty20 internationals to be played in Karachi on April 1, 2 and 4,” PCB chairman Najam Sethi told media in Dubai on the sidelines of the ongoing third edition of the PSL on March 11. “That is how we intend to put Karachi back on the cricket map once again… Karachi people should welcome this.”
The series was rescheduled on the request of the Sindh government. “The West Indies will play three T20 matches with Pakistan at National Stadium, Karachi on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of April 2018. The dates have been adjusted on the advice of the Sindh government so that there is no match on the occasion of the barsi of ex-PM ZA Bhutto on April 4,” Sethi tweeted.