As the supporters of Peshawar Zalmi cricket team celebrated their win in the Pakistan Super League on Sunday evening, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif breathed a sigh of relief. The Pakistan Super League’s final match took place in Lahore amidst fears of yet another terror attack in the country, but organisers said that all went well and the event concluded unhindered.
Lahore was festooned for the occasions with major roads lighted up. Although the home team had lost earlier in the tournament in games that were held in the UAE, public interest was at fever pitch in the city as tickets were sold out within hours of their sale earlier last week. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif reserved hundreds of tickets for students and special persons while his detractors accused him of using the occasion for personal projection.
But the arrangements also included heavy security with the army taking control of most parts of the city. The Pakistan army chief had advised Prime Minister Sharif to hold the final as earlier planned in Lahore despite a string of terror attacks in the country a week back. The army said it would take responsibility of the security of the foreign players who also arrived to participate in the final between Peshawar Zalimi and Quetta Gladiators.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2017 final opening ceremony kicked off Sunday evening with parachutists making a dramatic entry at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. Actors Ahmed Ali Butt and Ayesha Omer hosted the ceremony. Singer Ali Zafar opened the show with his new PSL song ‘Ab Khel Jamay Ga’ surrounded by traditional dancers. Fakhir followed his act with old favourite ‘Tere Bina Dil Na Lagay’. The Peshawar Zalmi took a round of the stadium before a performance by band Overload.
Band frontman Farhad Humayun took the opportunity to make a political statement. “We will continue playing cricket here,” he told a charged crowd. “We will continue playing our music here, and our families and kids will go to parks and enjoy themselves,” he said, before chanting ‘Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’ and taking up the drums alongside dhol walas beating their dhols.
PSL Chairman Najam Sethi thanked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan Cricket Board Patron Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab administration, PSL and PCB officials, and the people of Pakistan for their encouragement and hard work that made the event possible. “Today it is because of you that we are in Lahore,” he told the crowd.
“Today there are people here from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi, Quetta ─ from every part of Pakistan. This is a show of solidarity. The whole world should see we are together. We will not bow our heads before anyone. We can do anything.”
Cricket observers have said that the succesful conclusion of the tournament has raised hope of the return of international cricket to the country.