LAHORE: Lahore’s Gadaffi stadium was the scene of intentional cricket for the fifth time this year as the city’s combined forces came together to host Sri Lanka for the first time since the 2009 terrorist attack on their team bus.
That Pakistan won the game and clinched another limited overs whitewash after inspired performances with the bat and ball was just the cherry on top.
The air surrounding Gadaffi stadium was one of festivity. Despite the match being a dead rubber, Pakistan having won the two preceding games in the UAE, a large number of people made their way to Gadaffi on foot from distant parking locations to the awaiting checkpoints.
The mood inside the stadium was charged as always, with the added significance of Sri Lanka being the visitors not lost upon the masses attending the game. In fact, there was a defined sense of pride and hospitality. Despite Pakistan dominating through the course of both innings, the success of the Sri Lankans was celebrated with equal fervour.
The crowd’s gratitude was made even more obvious when the visitors received a greater roar of approval than the home team when both teams stepped out for the national anthems. The rest of the match, too, was full of stadium basking in the short big hitting burst of the Sri Lankan batting.
The crowd did take a turn to the rowdy as the throngs of riled up people took to their own battle cries. When the crowd handler asked the crowd to cheer for the PCB, the response was hugely “Go Nawaz Go,” despite the former premier not only being out of office, but out of the country as well.
Even though the traffic plan was much more comprehensive on this occasion, there were still reports of traffic jams in various parts of the city due to the blockage at few main roads.
Despite this, it should be remembered that this was only a single T20 game, which was more easily managed than a series. Traffic officials still do not know how they will manage if the West Indies ends up touring next month, when they will have to close the roads again for a longer duration. The only answer the CTO’s office offered was that they would think of that when it came to it.
Other than the lack of future planning, security was stringent but not tiring. Even the usually overbearing attitude of the Punjab police was pleasant and even supportive, the feeling of achievement and history intoxicating them equally.
The procedural quick exit of the Sri Lankans was to be expected but still was disappointing. Despite this, the crowd sent the players from both teams off with a standing ovation and unforgettable memories.
With arrangements not only safe, as they have been on previous occasions, but also efficient, the PCB and Punjab government seem to have found a model where they can safely say, that international cricket is ready to be a regular in Pakistan.