Cricket comes home. We have heard this before, twice before to be precise. So this makes it a 3rd. Every time these baby steps feel amazing though. No one is complaining (well except Imran Khan, I guess). It feels a bit unreal, surreal to some degree. Similar to emotions I felt when Leisure League got Ryan Giggs and Ronaldinho to play in Pakistan. There are a lot of questions which remain. Questions which weigh heavily on our shoulders as a nation. The question of our future, of our survival. The question of democracy, of freedom of expression.
I saw a tweet by former cricketer and current coach Mushtaq Ahmad, 'Cricket 1 Terror 0'. Well not really, Mushi bhai. Closing down cities to play cricket doesn't really mean victory. It’s not even a battle won in the war. It’s just that the wrangling between the administration, in 2009 made it conceivable for terrorist to swoop in and attack the Sri Lankan players. A nuclear state, with an army (all LEAs included) of probably a million, can defend 20 men. It was criminal negligence not capacity that got Pakistan into this horrendous position.
Why am I highlighting this? Because we are being oversold the idea of winning this war much like the underselling of the gravity of the actual war. There is a lot to be gravely concerned about. Like the constant threat of terrorism, the lack of personal freedom to speak our minds and the perpetual humiliation civilians face in the name of security. All these problems remain but for the next 4 days.
For these 4 days, my desire for normalcy has subsided owing to the passion for this wonderfully odd game called cricket. I pay homage to those who are in the line of fire, standing on the forefronts defending happiness of millions, embattled and bloodied in a war, which has been part of ‘the great game’ for the local and global elite. For those in Lahore, facing extreme situations, not being able to lead their daily lives, I am emphatic towards you but also jealous at some level, for Lahore has been the focus of our cricket board's energies. Any historian, would subscribe to this most apparent bias, but I am willing to discount it for a greater cause.
Most importantly, and I speak for most Pakistanis, when I say that our nation is indebted to players who have decided to give us this chance to feel good about ourselves. They have brought joy to a nation deprived of their own sensibilities. This is a tribute to the policemen who sacrificed their lives to safeguard the Sri Lankan players in 2009, and the policeman who died stopping a suicide bomber afar from the gates of Gaddafi stadium in 2015.
This is as much an exercise of self-assurance as a cricketing event. A global team has come to Pakistan and it is time to celebrate. But the war is not over. It won’t be won with a few cricket series. It’s far from over but for the next 4 days.