Pakistan captain lavished praise on Karachi’s cricket-watching public, lauding their efforts to get to the stadium despite the huge security.
The success of the three-match Twenty20 International series against the Windies in Karachi has raised Sarfraz Ahmed’s hopes of more top-flight teams coming across to the country.
“I don't think teams have any excuses left for not coming to Pakistan anymore – even today, the crowd turnout was massive, despite this match being the third game of the series,” said the Pakistan captain after the series finale, which his team won to sweep the series 3-0.
The stands at Karachi’s National Stadium, which was hosting international cricket for the first time since the first Test of Sri Lanka’s ill-fated tour in 2009, were full for all three days of the series.
Coming as it did just days after the 2018 Pakistan Super League (PSL) final at the same venue, the city has made a good case of its viability as an international cricket venue again.
“People of Karachi have proved to the world that cricket can be played in Pakistan, so the teams should not be looking for any excuses to not tour Pakistan,” continued Ahmed. “An ICC World XI side has come to Pakistan, we have had the PSL final [2017 in Lahore and 2018 in Karachi], and before that Sri Lanka came to Pakistan.
Thank you to the cricket fans who supported the historic return of international cricket in Karachi. You have proven that Pakistan is safe, secure and ready for international cricket. See you soon! #PakistanZindabad pic.twitter.com/29wAdqZx4e— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) April 3, 2018
“So I expect no team will be using security concerns as an excuse in the future. This year or the next year, cricket will come back to Pakistan.”
Attempts to bring cricket back to Pakistan in a big way have been on for a while, with the International Cricket Council (ICC) playing a big role in making the World XI tour to Lahore in September 2017 possible. The ICC even granted the three T20Is ‘international’ status.
Most of the cricket – international or with an international flavour, like in the case of the PSL – has, however, been played in Lahore, before Karachi returned to the picture more recently.
“No praise can do the justice to the discipline the Karachi-ites have shown. They have braved all the hurdles to come to the stadium. My family had also come to watch matches in the stadium and they told me about the problems that the people had to face on their way here,” said Ahmed, a Karachi boy.
“We should praise the efforts they made. The crowd was to its full capacity today. Likewise, we should also thank the security forces and intelligence agencies for their services. The PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) also deserves credit for all of their efforts.”
#SpiritOfCricket— CricketWestIndies (@westindies) April 3, 2018
Pakistani fans send a special "Thank You" to our world champions Windies at the end of third match in Karachi.
We say "Thank You" for the hospitality and goodwill during the series.#PAKvWI #RALLY pic.twitter.com/5V7StvdOP6
Ahmed also shot down suggestions that Pakistan’s dominant shows against Windies – wins by 143 runs, 82 runs and 8 wickets – were because the visitors had sent a weak side. Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder and Devendra Bishoo had opted out of the tour because of security concerns, and the team was led by Jason Mohammed.
“I have been hearing people say that a weak side has arrived for the series – we played better cricket and credit must be given to our side," countered Ahmed. "Our players deserve to be appreciated for their performances because they played exceptionally well.
“It would be wrong to say that a 'B side' had come. Eight players from this touring squad were part of the last West Indies tour. Four of them were part of the PSL. I don't think this was a weak side. We played better.”