LAHORE: Series with Pakistan is more than a game of cricket, said the World XI designated captain Faf du Plessis in an interview just the other day. Quite understandably said by him because this can only be understood by someone whose country (South Africa) had seen dark ages that lingered around it during 1970 to 1991. Though it was the ICC that voted South Africa out of contention then but for Pakistan it was the War against Terror that has left the country paralyzed in several ways but one of the most affected was its sports.
As of cricket, the most obsessedly loved sport of the country was the prime loser, because no major Test playing nation was willing to come over to Pakistan.
The initiatives taken long ago were given a final shape at last by the newly-elected PCB Chairman Najam Sethi. It was only his realistic approach that yielded fruitful results and international cricket is about to make inroads in Pakistan’s stadiums.
With much higher credit going to the Sethi, under whose leadership the Pakistan Super League became an instant success. And success of the highest order was seen the following year when Sethi to his words organised the PSL final in Lahore. But their efforts for the return of international cricket in their backyard continued. Their struggle gained positive feeds right after the Pakistan team unexpectedly won their maiden Champions Trophy title in England, where the mini world cup continued even after several incidents of terrorism. The realisation that terrorism is not only the issue of Pakistan but it is something that needed to be addressed at the world level was clearly understood by the International Cricket Council, which agreed to play its part in forming a World XI to play a series in Pakistan.
In all this happenings a lot of table work, correspondence, exchange of emails and long distance telephone conversations and what not took place. And behind all this fusion stood a team of the PCB officials, led by Sethi, a veteran journalist, who has somehow convinced the world that Pakistan cannot be denied of international cricket anymore.
In the days to come God willing the home grown fans will soon be watching international stars playing their own star in their own stadiums. The World XI, which will be playing three T20s on September 12, 13 and 15 in Lahore, is followed by two T20 games of the Pakistan’s home series against Sri Lanka and then the West Indies.
As the word goes, Sethi has promised eight of the PSL 3 matches in Pakistan and with half of them at Karachi. That would surely pave the way for more international matches coming to Pakistan and spreading to other cities. So the nation should keep its hopes high because more international cricket means local cricketers developing, the fans rejoicing and the PCB coffers glutting yet again with thanks to the collective efforts of Najam Sethi and Co; so it can be stated in such a words that the country’s cricket has now entered an era of glorious fiefdom from dark ages of isolation.