Articles of the year 2005

Thank You Karachi
December 10th, 2005

Karachi has proved yet again that it is indeed the premier city of Pakistan. The ODI at the National stadium between England and Pakistan gave us a great match in front of a capacity crowd. A truly wonderful crowd that was out to enjoy themselves--- and it did. There were no incidents, no unruly behavior, and positioned as we were bang in the middle of the Fazal Mahmood stadium, surrounded by youngsters with faces painted in the Pakistan colours, and some waving their Union Jacks to display their dual nationalities, they were out to enjoy themselves and they did. The noise, the applause, the chanting were all the expressions of enjoyment. The capacity crowd showed the ICC President how wrong the ECB was in not playing a full test match here. For it deprived this city of five more days of gaiety, which we could well do with. The Stadium itself was packed to the overflowing, and put the PCB's performance in Lahore and Multan to shame. The seats were all full—and paid for. There were no free bees unlike Lahore, where we understand the gates were opened to any and all, so that the stands could be filled, and that did'nt work either. The empty seats stared back at the players sending the wrong signals to the viewers of a lack of following of the game. It was a failure of the PCB, in mismanaging the selling of the tickets. The Karachi associations proved themselves much more adroit in their marketing skills.

The packed stadium pulsed with the energy of an expectant crowd about to witness a battle between two great teams. A home team backed by the hopes of 40,000 eager fans, and taking on the victors of the Ashes, having beaten Australia, the greatest in the present day game. The atmosphere was electric. Sure enough Karachi was treated to a great batting display, and with 353 runs on the board the out come was fairly certain, unless Shoaib and co made a complete hash of it, and they did'nt. By the 4th wicket it was almost all over, and the English team had been convincingly beaten. But the true winners were the Karachiites, who showed the cricketing world that they were a knowledgeable and a ruly crowd, with an understanding of the game. The Lahori was put to shame, by the youngsters who showed in their happiness that they knew how to enjoy themselves, and their commitment by showing up in their numbers to give support to their heroes. The roar following Shoaib in his runup perhaps added a few kph to his speed, or the height of his bouncer! Either way it showed why the home side always has an advantage. I had a visitor from England ( an English Knight –no less) over to witness the match, who thoroughly enjoyed himself, and mingled happily with the crowd, not feeling threatened in the least. He kept asking me why the security problem had been hyped up so much. For he did not sense any animosity, and could not understand the serious concerns being expressed by some. Anyway, he did enjoy himself, less so because of the extent of the defeat, but was man enough to acknowledge that Pakistan was the better side on the day, and probably the most underrated team in the world. On Thursday we would have beaten anyone.

The sad part is that the PCB did not put up more of a fight in bringing more matches to Karachi. Perhaps it is time we put an ex cricketer in charge. He may bring more understanding of the game to the organization, and not the other way around. It really is time we bring the game to the people. It is the people that have been deprived for too long. It is no longer a game of the elite. It is of the people. No longer should the interviewer ask questions of our players in English, and watch him squirm, and stumble through a foreign language. His fluency is to be judged with bat or ball, and not in English. The sooner this point is made to the interviewer the better.

Thank you Karachi, for proving that you can enjoy yourselves, without rancour, have learnt the unfamiliar habit of queuing, and the Karachi Police who for once were not required to display their skills at riot control! We surely deserve more than a single ODI.