Pakistan celebrates return of international cricket

By Abdul Nasir Khan

Thousands of fans flocked to Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium under intense security on October 29 for Pakistan's Twenty20 showdown with Sri Lanka, the first visit by a major cricketing nation since a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team. Najam Sethi, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Janathapriya Thilanga Sumathipala, Sri Lankan Cricket Board president, Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka captain, and fans speak about the event. [Justine Gerardy / AFPTV / AFP and Abdul Nasir Khan / Pakistan Forward]

LAHORE -- Cricket fans and officials celebrated the return of international cricket to Pakistan with the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match in Lahore Sunday (October 29), calling it a sign of Pakistan's success over militancy.

International cricket ceased in Pakistan after terrorists attacked the visiting Sri Lankan team March 3, 2009, in Lahore.

The attack left seven Pakistanis dead and seven Sri Lankans injured. Authorities blamed it on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Pakistan won Sunday's match, the final one in a three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series between the two teams. They played the other matches in the United Arab Emirates.


Pakistani cricket players celebrate after winning the third and final T20I cricket match against Sri Lanka in Lahore October 29. [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]


Pakistani spectators cheer prior to the start of the T20I cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore October 29. [Arif Ali/ AFP]


Spectators go through stepped-up security in Lahore before the Pakistani-Sri Lankan cricket match October 29. Pakistan won. [Abdul Nasir Khan]


Mehar Khalil (2nd left), heroic bus driver who drove the Sri Lankan team to safety during the 2009 terrorist attack, meets with Sri Lanka Cricket Board President Thilanga Sumathipala (2nd right) and PCB Chairman Najam Sethi (right) as a special guest October 29 in Lahore. [PCB Twitter account]

A historic match

"The significance of the match was that the Sri Lankan team visited and played in Pakistan ... for the first time since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009," Khyber News senior journalist Zimal Khan told Pakistan Forward.

"Eight years ago, there was a tragedy that we wish to forget, and this is a beginning of that journey of moving on," said Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi in a pre-match news conference with Sri Lanka Cricket Board President Thilanga Sumathipala and captains of both teams.

"This is historic because it marks the beginning of a new era of international cricket at home," he said. "This sends a big signal to the rest of the cricketing nations that Pakistan is ready to host international cricket."

Pakistanis "deserve to enjoy good cricket played in your country," Sumathipala said, adding that "Sri Lanka will come back soon."

Sumera Ashraf, a 21-year-old cricket fan from Lahore, said she and her friends did not mind the large security presence outside Gaddafi Stadium.

"I went to Gaddafi Stadium with friends to show solidarity with the visiting Sri Lankan team and to tell militants: you have been defeated," she told Pakistan Forward.

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