The nine-year wait is about to over. The terrorists who put Pakistan cricket in a deadlock have been defeated as hundreds of fans, fighting the heat and near-suffocating security blanket marched towards the stadium.
It is like a big festival for the nearly 20-million people of the metropolis. The city is buzzing, with hoardings welcoming the players and the Pakistan Super League final.
Much before the gates were opened at 12 noon, fans had started to walk towards the designated points for the shuttle, which carried them to another point from where they had to walk into the stadium. At various checkpoints they were body searched and at some points, they grumbled, but everything was tolerated for the fun of a cricket match.
“I started as early as 7 am in the morning and took a bus from Hyderabad and once I reached here all my fatigue ended as I saw the imposing National stadium before me,” said Allah Din Chandio, a student of MA in the Sindh University.
Karachi hosted the first Test of that fateful series against Sri Lanka which had to be abandoned after the visitors were attacked during the Lahore Test. That Test in late February 2009 was itself a memorable one as then Pakistan captain Younis Khan scored an epic triple hundred while Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera also notched double hundreds.
Ever since then Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had arranged five limited-overs internationals against Zimbabwe, last year’s PSL final, three Twenty20 internationals against World XI and a single T20 international against Sri Lanka — all in Lahore. That raised squabbling amongst the Karachiities. Karachi’s famous product Shahid Afridi last year raised voice and demanded matches in Karachi as well. It is to PCB chairman Najam Sethi’s credit that he took the task upon himself, got Karachi cleared and not only announced PSL final in Karachi but also scheduled all three Twenty20 internationals against the West Indies in the city.
That made the Karachities joyous. The excitement was so high that the site that was selling PSL final tickets crashed and tickets were sold within two hours.
The build-up to the final was exhilarating.
PCB and PSL management have arranged a glittering closing ceremony of the league which started in Dubai on February 22 and after 31 matches in the Gulf, it moved to Lahore for the two playoffs and then the final in Karachi.
The closing ceremony will start at 7:00 pm before the action starts an hour later. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will also grace the occasion along with the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PCB had also invited Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for the final but there is no confirmation about his visit.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah had overlooked the security arrangements in the afternoon and was satisfied with them.
So the stage is set and the whistle is about to be blown. Karachi will be back on international cricket map on Sunday.