By Hina Anjum: March 3, 2009 – The day when a sudden pain unfolded in the heart of every Pakistani. The day after which we ended up believing that, now, there will be no International Cricket in Pakistan for next long while, and that a whole generation of Pakistanis will grow up without seeing their heroes live in action in their home grounds.
That day, the members of Sri Lanka Cricket Team survived the attack but for cricket lovers in Pakistan, everything changed. Pakistan lost the chance to co-host the 2011 World Cup, and the national team was forced to play home games in the United Arab Emirates.
The stadiums that had been empty – for six years, illustrated a nightmare, and this nightmare ended on Friday when Pakistan took on Zimbabwe in a T20-format match. Cricket came home, and the silence that had been echoing in the stadiums of Pakistan was finally broken by the crowd chanting Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe. The undying passion and spirit towards the game of Cricket that, hesitantly, escaped from the land of Pakistan, returned. The hungry fans were, at last, served with what they had been craving for after six, long years.
Spotted at the much anticipated first T20 Match in between Pakistan and Zimbabwe were various Pakistani Celebrities and models who flocked to support and watch the men in green. Ali Zafar, Humaima Mallick, Mehreen Syed, Ayesha Omer,Sabeeka Imam are just a few of the big names who attended the game. They posted their amazing and memorable clicks on their social media accounts trending with the hashtag #CricketComesHome.
Cricket fans from across the border also offered words of encouragement.
That’s not all. Green fever was enchanted, and to make the remarkable night more colorful, Pakistan top singers also joined the ground. After all, when it comes to Cricket, how can we forget about Music?
The Pakistan Cricket Board had roped in the versatile Ali Zafar who entertained the crowd during the opening ceremony of the series. “It has been way too long since international cricket happened in Pakistan,” he said, adding, “I felt sad for all the years the players couldn’t engage in cricket in their own nation.”
Ali Zafar even tweet to express his excitement before the match:
Performing live on the 22nd at the opening ceremony #PakvsZim. After 6 years #CricketComesHome. Proud moment. pic.twitter.com/vvLCZK93vw
— Ali Zafar (@AliZafarsays) May 19, 2015
He further added, “The joy, the high, the experience is unexplainable. It wasn’t just about performing in front of a crowd of over 30,000 people. It was about being a part of a moment in history where we stood together and showed the world what we’re made of and who we are. It was about being part of a day that showed our resolve that we would go to any extreme to reclaim the Pakistan we want.”
And finally, he couldn’t resist from bringing out the inner kid. “As a child, always wanted to be running in a cricket ground. Never thought would be with such honour on such a special day. #CricketComesHome”
Ali performed his songs Urainge and Masti, and during the break in 1st T20 match, he even performed one of his great songs ‘Channo’. He said his performance is a means of acknowledging the fact that like musicians and actors, cricketers also are Pakistan’s rock stars.
Moreover, ‘Princess’ Annie will be performing on 24th, while veteran singer Shehzad Roy will take the stage at the closing ceremony on May 31st.
“It is a huge honor for me to perform at the closing of this match and I hope this is just the first of many international matches to follow.”
Shehzad further expressed his views, “Cricket is a great unifier in this country. It brings together Pakistanis from all socioeconomic classes, religions and ethnicities. This match marks the revival of international cricket in Pakistan and comes at a time when Pakistanis need to unite and become one entity.”
Even though cricket went away, it never died. It was kept alive in both the prayers and the curses of the fans, because both are signs of caring. The Zimbabwe’s tour to Pakistan hopefully will be the first step in fully restoring Pakistan as an international cricket venue and encouraging other teams to visit.
The combination of Music and Cricket will never become truly mainstream. This combination – both enjoyed immensely by the people of Pakistan – is definitely going to help the country in more ways than one, as well as give fans a platform to once again witness and enjoy live performances and cricket – both of which had disappeared in recent times — in their home country.