Only the strongest survive trying times, and when they do, they emerge stronger than ever. Same will be the case with Pakistan in general and Lahore in particular, which in former coach Waqar Younis’ words will be ‘lit’ when true international cricket makes its way back to the country after eight long years.
Although a short tour featuring Zimbabwe did materialise back in 2015, the cricket-mad country’s fans wanted to see a sizable, substantial opponent on home soil. They demanded a tour where top players from major cricketing nations visited the country and faced their local heroes as opposed to minnows and castoffs.
Their wish was finally granted when a South Africa captain Faf du Plessis-led World XI team was set up to play three T20Is in Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
With every single cricket fan in Pakistan happy and waiting anxiously for the tour, pace legend Waqar Younis’s case is no different as he too is cherishing the return of international cricket to the cricket-famished country.
“It has been nearly 10 years since international cricket was played on this ground [Gaddafi Stadium],” he said while talking to the Pakistan Cricket Board. “A few matches were played here before but it is great to see [true international]cricket returning to the country. Of course, it is a huge deal for the fans; it is a moment of great glee for all of us.”
The 45-year-old feels the grandeur of the World XI tour will not be any less than India’s historical visits to Pakistan.
“I hope the fans will enjoy as much as they used to enjoy when India visited this place,” he said. “I hope the fans will celebrate the return of international cricket with fervour and the air of Gaddafi Stadium will be filled with colours of happiness.”
‘Gaddafi will be full’
Waqar, while recalling his Gaddafi Stadium memories, claimed the ground would seem to shrink when cricket-hungry spectators flood in for the matches.
“Our generation was lucky; we lived in a time when international cricket was played regularly in Pakistan,” he said. “Now, when the new kids will see cricket happening in the country, it will be a moment of great pride for us.”
He continued: “The stadium will be full. When World XI will visit, other teams will start to come too, and this stadium will not be able to take the toll of fans. People are hungry to watch live cricket, to watch their heroes play in front of them. Those were good days (when cricket was played in Pakistan), but better days are coming soon.”
‘Thanks to people who made it possible’
Like all other former cricketers and analysts of Pakistani origin, Waqar did not leave the opportunity to thank everyone involved in making the World XI visit possible.
“I want to thank all the international players, the coaches, the management, whoever is coming on the tour, whoever is coming and supporting us,” said Waqar. “It is a big thank to them.”
He concluded by telling the World XI players to get ready for a grand reception.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to express our happiness in front of them. They’ll see. The Gaddafi Stadium is going to light up and things are going to start moving in the right direction,” he said.