National Stadium, we meet again
It felt like rekindling with a former flame – the sweaty palms, the shortness of breath and the butterflies. It had been four long years apart and the reunion was going to be something special. It felt like I was finally home as I walked into the gates of National Stadium with the floodlights, the cheering of the crowd, the flurry of green and white and the various bottle bangers and chants. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t an official match, it didn’t matter that half the people could barely pronounce the names of the opposition, what mattered was that international cricket had returned to Pakistan in some form and 30,000 cricket-crazy individuals entered the ground praying that this would be the first of many matches to come.
It’s hard to be a fan of Pakistan cricket; hard because of how often we are burned. Every match we wonder about spot fixing, at award ceremonies our talent is often overlooked and on an international level, we are often scorned for not being safe enough to host tournaments. Despite that, we love the game and all that it brings with it – cricket unites, it heals, it pieces a self-destructing country back together. Such is the power of cricket and few should underestimate it.
At the first exhibition match, the crowds came in droves. These were the fans who cried when the Sri Lankans were shot at in 2009, when we were shamed with spot fixing, when we did not win the 2011 World Cup, these were the fans who prayed for a miracle for cricket to return once again to the country and there they were to support it.
Green wigs, angry aunties, dusty broken chairs and the relentless enthusiasm and energy of the crowd brought the stadium back to life. What ensued on the field was greatly appreciated by the masses and it was easy to get swept away in the madness and frenzy that a stadium brings. Jazba junoon was played at every boundary and every wicket was ooh-ed and aah-ed.
We are a country with very few heroes and even fewer accolades to our name in recent times. I saw a city alive and kicking, I saw children with painted faces who were reciting stats on every player that walked on to the field; I saw families and women and older men in their 70s, all enthralled with the sheer joy and disbelief that a match was being played right before their eyes. There is history in those seats, records have been created on that pitch, beautiful memories have been made – you don’t need to be an avid cricket fan to realise how much cricket means to the people here. I literally skipped my way through the gate, the sign was lit up with the Pakistan star and I walked in, tears in my eyes, hoping and praying that the match goes well.
They say you never forget your first love, it seems 30,000 people also fell in love with cricket the way I did. We wear our emotions on our sleeve and no matter how many times our heart is broken, we cannot let go. International World XI, I salute you for taking a chance and believing in us – it means more than you can even imagine. Thank you for giving us a reason to celebrate, and giving the people of Pakistan hope. There is no greater feeling than watching a match on a home ground, there is passion and pure love and a unity unmatchable, cricket you are a love like no other; National Stadium, we shall meet again, I am sure of it.
Hadeel Obaid is a patriotic Pakistani and an avid cricket fan with the ultimate goal to be chairman of the PCB one day.
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