Pakistan cricket rolls back the years despite virus outbreak

Dubai - The incredible passion the fans brought to the stadiums moved former Pakistan captain and celebrated commentator Rameez Raja.

By Liaqat Ali

Published: Thu 19 Mar 2020, 11:10 PM

The Pakistan Super League may not have seen a fairy tale ending in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but the tournament has otherwise been a resounding success.
Staged entirely in Pakistan for the first time, the country's cricket board deserves a pat on the back for the grand success of a tournament that has the potential to become the second biggest T20 league in the world after the Indian Premier League.
Until Covid-19 played a spoilsport in the knockout stages, top international stars felt safe to play cricket in a country where the ghosts of 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team still gives fans nightmares.
Many people felt Pakistan were in dreamland after their announcement last year to stage the entire PSL in the country.
Having scarcely seen international cricket on home soil since the Lahore attack, the sceptics had obviously a field day.
But Pakistan rose to the challenge admirably as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan rolled back the years with packed stadiums.
The PSL has now given Pakistan a shot in arm as it aims to host big international teams again.
There were even words of encouragement from the Quetta Gladiators' Australian star Ben Cutting who didn't rule out the possibility of the Australian team touring Pakistan in the next few years.
The PCB has also been trying to convince the International Cricket Council to allow the country to host ICC events in near future.
But more than anything else, it was the incredible passion the fans brought to the stadiums that moved former Pakistan captain and celebrated commentator Rameez Raja.
For a country that was hungry for top-class cricket, this was their greatest triumph.
"The PSL in Pakistan has exceeded all expectations and reaction of the fans at all centres was unbelievable. The credit goes to the groundsmen who made it possible amid difficult weather conditions during the matches in Punjab," Raja told Khaleej Times.
"The Rawalpindi crowd was the best. Despite the bad weather and delayed starts, they stayed put," Raja said. "During the truncated match between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators, they waited and waited and then enjoyed a blockbuster."
It was indeed a unique experience for the new generation of fans in Pakistan - a country whose last tryst with a major event was in 1996 when it co-hosted the World Cup with India and Sri Lanka.
"In next two-three years, the PSL is going to be a very big and we hope the emergence of travelling fans will have ripple effects in the economy. Right now Peshawar Zalmi has a brand of followers who travel with the team," Rameez said.
The PSL also saw the return of Multan to high-profile cricket.
"It is heartening to see the people of South Punjab enjoy top quality cricket after a gap of 12 years in Multan," said Waseem Khan, PCB Chief Executive.
"It is our policy to add more venues and provide people an opportunity to watch their heroes at home."
The passion shown by the players and their adoring fans in the PSL 5 will certainly linger in the mind.

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