A day of tragedy and hope.
It began with a trip out to the roundabout where the Sri Lankan team bus was shot up in March 2009. It is literally about 200m from the front gate of Gadaffi Stadium where they were headed.
It’s a very open space and standing there recording, you can imagine how the gunmen just walked out and opened fire. There are still broken window panes in one shop that have never been fixed. This was 8 years ago.
And it’s not as though it was just some dudes with guns. They threw a grenade at the bus. They then fired a rocket launcher at it. All missed. But in the process, six policemen and two civilians died. Or as they print in the papers here when Indian soldiers fire across the border and kill innocents for no reason, they were martyred.
The fact that the stadium is still named after Col. Gadaffi amazes me. A coward who ordered the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie.
Originally named Lahore Stadium, it was changed in 1974 following a speech Gadaffi gave in Lahore in favour of Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons.
On that logic, the stadium could just as easily be named Kim Jong-un. Not Pakistan’s greatest decision and a real stain on the image of the country.
I suspect the name will be changed again when it has the biggest political impact.
We then went and chatted to the marketing department at the PCB. The office stunk of cigarette smoke. I found it hard to breathe and really struggled in this environment.
Again, the parodox of Pakistan. The PCB is all about healthy athletes yet is happy to let its office staff poison everyone around them.
The marketing guys were young and vibrant. Just like any other marketing guys you would find in any corporate office in any part of the world. I really enjoyed engaging with them. They have views over looking the stadium from the inside. Not the worst place to be.
We tried to line up a meeting with Najam Sethi, who had just returned from Karachi. We were entering a glass lift that faced the carpark when his car arrived. The security ushered us out of the lift as a security precaution. I suspect more for show than anything else. God forbid an Australian journalist armed with a notebook and DSLR happened to see Najam step out of his car.
The meeting was on then off again. We will now catch him later in the week. Something about being tired or a busy schedule or whatever. kinda like me. We also plan to speak to the local groundman when we return. Groundsmen always have cool stories.
Aqib Javed gave us some time back at the National Cricket Academy next door. A man who’s looks do not give away his age. He was also a corruption fighter and that ostracised him in many ways from the Pakistani teams he used to play for. This is itself speaks volumes about Pakistani cricket in the 1990’s. The era when most of the country’s modern day heroes played.
Aqib is now Director of Cricket at the Lahore Qalanders PSL.
To give you a flavour of how cricket and Pakistan are intertwined, over 160,000 people registered to try out at this year’s selection camps for the team squad. Let that sink in for a minute.
As Aqib and I are talking, Saif Bada comes over and says hello. He is the Pakistani U19 representative I met in Karachi. He is also part of the Qalandars development squad that is about to go on a T20 tour of Australia. He introduces me to Usman Qadir. The son of the great Abdul Qadir.
A 24 year old guy who was days away from migrating to Australia as he thought that cricket had passed him by. By when the PSL started, he went for a try out and made the squad. The result is that he is still living in Pakistan, is part of a professional squad and has not been lost to Pakistani cricket.
If nothing else, the PSL is creating hope and opportunity for the young men of this country. One wonders how long until the women get the same opportunity. Culturally, it appears that it will be difficult. I intend to explore this further.
We were meant to also sit in on an anti-corruption lecture that the PCB was giving to the Lahore Qalanders development squad. But the Army Major wouldn’t let anyone in. Not even team management, despite prior approval. These guys are taking match fixing seriously. Well, at least on the surface.
On the way back to the office, we stopped to buy some traditional dress. The salwar (pants) kameez (top). It is just a loose fitting cotton set of pyjamas and I love it. So comfortable and airy. I can see myself wearing it around home when I get back. Off with the suit after a tough day at work an into the salwar kameez. I wonder how the locals will react in Menzies Creek when I walk into the supermarket wearing it it while I grab some milk and bread?
Back to the Cricingif office to play a game of cricket. Not just any game mind you. This was virtual cricket. The team here have written the software to make this happen. I’ve posted a video of it on my Facebook page. Suffice to say you really get immersed in it. I can’t wait until it is released on the Xbox.
It just goes to demonstrate the calibre of breadth of skills over here. To be honest, Pakistan has proven to be no different to many other counties, including Australia. The big cities are modern and behave as big cities should. They have fast internet. Chain restaurants. Public transport. ATM’s. Events. Billboards. All the normal stuff.
The country side is clean and relaxing and also behaves like the countryside should. Space. Farming. Animals. Old ruins. Great characters.
The day ended at the barber shop. A quick shave and a massage. Forty five minutes of lounging in a recliner as a small statured man with ridiculously strong hands sends you to sleep with the most amazing shoulder and head massage of all time. All this for the equivalent of $6.
You guys really need to get over here and check this place out.
It is safe you know.
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