Cricket fever grips Pakistan

Karachi, Lahore to hosts matches of sixth edition with limited number of fans attending

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KARACHI:
The sixth edition of the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) Pakistan Super League (PSL) kicked-off in Karachi on Saturday, with the National Stadium filled at 20 per cent capacity after a modest opening ceremony.

The action in the stadium was matched with the animation outside the picturesque building, with people trying to use alternative routes to reach home in the evening and get glued to the TV screens for the Karachi Kings versus Quetta Gladiators encounter.

Many were seen complaining about the road blocks placed at the main entrance of the National Stadium, located exactly at the roundabout which connects four main roads of Karachi, during the practice matches and later during the opening match of the league, but none protested violently against it.

It seemed the resident of Karachi, especially the people living near the National Stadium, had become accustomed to the hullabaloo caused by the road blockages which has become a norm during the HBL PSL and also when teams tour Pakistan to play cricket.

The debate of whether such an intense security plan coupled with road blockages is a long-term solution always gathers pace whenever foreign players visit Pakistan to play cricket, especially in Karachi where the stadium is located on one of the busiest roads of the city. However, with the occurrences happening only once or twice a year, the parties involved – the PCB and the residents of Karachi – haven’t come at a difficult crossroads for now.

But sooner or later the PCB will have to figure out a way to make Karachi the host of international cricket without disrupting the natural flow of the city.

Pakistan wins, terrorism loses

The HBL PSL can be considered one of the foundations on which the PCB chartered its successful course of return of international cricket.

Credit also goes to the security agencies for offering unwavering support in reviving international cricket in Pakistan through thorough planning.

The blueprint for security of the visiting players and officials was not easy to formulate, even in Lahore and Rawalpindi, where blocking the roads to the stadiums doesn’t cause a city-wide ruckus for traffic. However, coming up with the perfect traffic plan and managing divergences in such a way that the alternate routes are not agonisingly congested was a hard task in a city like Karachi. The job was done successfully, but some still disagree with the fact that the daily lives of the Karachiites remain undisturbed during the HBL PSL or a foreign team’s tour.

However, everyone does believe that the security situation of Karachi has improved and sport tourism will help the city and eventually Pakistan sooner than later. This certifies a much-needed win for Pakistan in the perennial fight against terrorism.

Fan mania

With the world slowly and gradually opening up again after a depressing fight against an economy-shattering pandemic, Pakistan also decided opened its stadiums’ doors for fans during the sixth edition of the HBL PSL all thanks to the cooperation between the PCB and the NCOC.

The opening match saw the National Stadium filled at 20 per cent capacity and the players were ecstatic to see and hear the crowd cheering them on rather than hearing recorded sounds of the spectators.

The inclusion of the 20 per cent fans during the league matches will also serve as a test for the PCB as they have demanded an increase in number of fans for the playoff matches and the final.

If all goes well, players will be able to put on a show for an increased number of spectators at the business end of the HBL PSL6, a chance they wouldn’t want to miss.

All in all, PCB deserves praise for organising the sixth edition of the HBL PSL even when a pandemic has brought the world to a halt. Also, the security agencies should be commended for their efforts to ensure a safe and secure tournament, while the presence of fans has and will add the extra flavour to the already-promised cricketing entertainment.

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