This day, the 25th of March of 2018, will be remembered in the sports history of Pakistan for a long time as cricket involving current international players is staging a comeback in Karachi.
The city, considered the hub of cricket in the country, had been ignored for a long time due to Pakistan Cricket Board’s policies which seemingly tilted in Lahore’s favour whenever there were international matches held in Pakistan. Now that Pakistan’s law enforcement institutions have restored peace across the city, there was no choice for PCB but to organise the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final here.
It is good that the PCB is also organising a Twenty20 International series against the West Indies immediately after this final. This will compensate, to some extent, the loss that Karachiites have suffered in the past couple of years during which such matches were organised in Lahore only.
After competitions of wrestling (featuring WWE-famed wrestlers), football, and hockey, finally international cricket is returning to the city. We can now say that international sports have been completely restored in the country. Contests of many other disciplines, including squash and tennis have also been organised in the country during the last couple of years.
No doubt cricket is the most keenly followed game here, but as far as the restoration of international sports is concerned, we cannot forget that PHF secretary Olympian Shahbaz Ahmed has played an important role in this regard. He revived international sports in Pakistan only through his personal standing in the world of hockey.
First he brought 11 foreign goalkeepers from Argentina and Australia to Karachi to participate in the Nishan-e-Haider hockey tournament last year.
Then he invited some hockey legends, including Paul Litjens, the most famous penalty corner specialist of Holland, Floris Jan Bovelandar, and Christian Blunck.
Then a strong World Hockey XI, comprising players from Spain, New Zealand, Australia, and other counties, came to the country in January this year.
A colourful ceremony of Hall of Fame was held in Karachi, where these hockey legends declared Pakistan safe for international sports.
Pakistan hockey team’s head coach Roelant Oltmans has been training the boys at Edhi Stadium for around two weeks. Oltmans is the most famous hockey coach from Holland and has the status of FIH master coach.
Before him a South African goalkeeping coach Erasmus Pieterse stayed in Karachi for more than two weeks to train a group of emerging goalkeepers.
Before PHF’s efforts, private sports organisers brought Ronaldinho, world’s famous footballer from Brazil, and Welsh Ryan Giggs to play in Karachi and Lahore.
The WWE-famed wrestlers visited Karachi for a competition but due to the organisers’ incompetence and poor marketing and media coverage, the event was not successful.
We criticised PCB for not organising the matches of PSL, and the matches against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and a World XI in Karachi, now we should applaud the Board for completing the development work at NSK for the PSL final and allot all three T20 matches against West Indies to Karachi.
We should not forget the great sports organiser late Dr Muhammad Ali Shah, who single-handedly managed to bring a World XI, comprising many stars of world cricket in those days, in 2012. Shah’s services should always be remembered.
We wish to see more international sports competitions in our country.