Thank you, Sri Lankan team, for giving us a new lease of cricket life. The team is here in Pakistan on a three-match series of One Day Internationals to be played in Karachi and as many Twenty20 internationals in Lahore. All matches are going to be watched by capacity crowds in all stands of the National Stadium in Karachi and Gadhafi Stadium in Lahore. Cricket runs in the Pakistani nation’s blood; it is a great uniting factor for the country. Whenever there is an international cricket match, especially against India, every single ball leaves the Pakistani crowd breathless with either excitement or anxiety, depending on the scoreboard. A victory sends the whole country dancing on the streets; the other result sets in national mourning like situation. The same happens across the border. This is the beauty of sports rivalry.
Pakistan was writing glorious chapters in international cricket on home grounds and aboard until 2000 when terrorism, stemming from the war on terror in Afghanistan, struck Pakistani society. It changed the very fabric of our lives; the sports sector was one of the worst sufferers. The last nail in the cricket coffin was the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, after which international cricket stayed away from Pakistani grounds. A whole generation grew up watching national cricket heroes only playing on foreign grounds. The lull was briefly broken by the visit of the Zimbabwean team to Lahore for a three One Day International matches in October 2015. In 2017, some international players shrugged off the unwritten boycott of the Pakistani soil by the international community and played the Pakistan Super League final match. That was the watershed moment for Pakistani cricket as the international community started looking at our case with sympathy as well as thoughtful consideration. Impressed by Pakistan’s hunger for international games, the International Council of Cricket (ICC) went ahead with the World XI tour to Pakistan with a One Day International series in 2017.
The first match was called off due to rain. A successful conclusion of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka series is a matter of life and death for the security agencies and the civil administration. The ICC security team has, so far, shown satisfaction over security arrangements. The security is mainly banked on the Safe City Project of Lahore and heavy deployments of police personnel and a thorough sweeping of the surrounding areas of the stadiums in Lahore and Karachi. The authorities should be given full credit for their efforts. Pakistan and the international community should celebrate the game with sportsman spirit. Of course, this is the defeat of terrorism. *
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