Playing in front of the home crowd is a different feeling altogether. The kind of adrenaline rush one gets when thousands of people are tearing the roof-top while cheering for you as you stride out to bat or mark your run-up as you steam into a bowl. It’s surreal. It’s magic. It’s something that cannot be expressed in words. This is why home advantage is such a big deal in sports, especially in cricket. Because it is not only the pitch or the playing conditions that the opposition has to deal with, it is also the crowd that plays as the virtual 12th man.
Consider all of the above in its entirety and then imagine the excitement that engulfs Pakistan cricketers today. Its been ten years now. A whole new Pakistani generation of cricketers are still to play their first home game on their home soil. For a lot of them that is expected to change in a few days as Sri Lanka square-off against Pakistan in 3-match T20I and ODI series in Karachi and Lahore.
“I can’t wait for Friday”
Pakstan Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed expressed a lot of excitement and pride as he prepares to lead his side in front of the home crowd and reckons it as one of the highlights of his career. “Leading the Pakistan cricket team in a bilateral ODI series in front of my home crowd will be one of the highlights of my career,” Sarfraz was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz.
“I can’t wait for Friday, which will mark the memorable occasion, and I hope when I walk out, I have a full-house behind me, not only cheering me but both the sides. Fans are the lifeline for any sport as they are the driving force for any team or player. They give extra energy to the teams and help them produce their very best.”
This will be the first time since 2009 that International cricket will return to Karachi. The 3-match ODI series will be played at the National Stadium and according to the skipper, history will be made. “History will be made on Friday when Karachi will host the first bilateral ODI series since January 2009. I request all local cricket fans to be part of history so that they can tell the next generation that they were at the National Stadium when an international series was played,” he added.
“Friday will be one of my biggest days”- Babar Azam
Meanwhile the right-handed batsman and one of the players who has missed out on playing in front of his home fans, Babar Azam reckoned that Friday will be the biggest day of his life and also went on to reminisce about the two ODIs that he saw as a kid in Karachi.
“I can’t thank enough for the love and respect I have received from all my fans in the early days of my career. Friday will be one of my biggest days when I will take the field as Pakistan vice-captain. I will want the entire country as well as the National Stadium crowd to make this a day to remember for me,” he said.
The ODIs which Babar referred to were the 1st ODI from the 2004 Samsung Cup and a league-stage game of the Asia Cup in 2008 between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. While the Men in Blue won the first game by five runs, they were trumped by a Younis Khan masterclass four years later.
“As a youngster, I have seen on television packed-to-capacity National Stadium for ODIs and the two matches that immediately come to my mind are the 2004 and 2008 ODIs against India. In 2004, Pakistan lost by five runs despite Inzamam-ul-Haq’s brilliant century but four years later, Younis Khan’s belligerent 123 not out steered us to eight wickets victory. I am hoping there will be a similar crowd number when we will play Sri Lanka,” Babar further added.
Misbah goes down memory-lane
Meanwhile, the newly-appointed head coach and selector Misbah-ul-Haq went down memory lane to reminisce about the last One-day held at Karachi. Interestingly, Misbah featured in the last ODI, also against Sri Lanka, held in Karachi and ten years later, he’ll kickstart his journey as the head coach at the same venue and hoped that the home crowd will turn out in huge numbers to support the national side.
“Friday’s match will be an emotional one for me as I played at the National Stadium when it last staged an ODI, also against Sri Lanka. Ten years later, I will start my time as head coach of the Pakistan national cricket team, so the time has moved really fast.
“As the national cricket team commences its 2019-20 international season in Karachi, I hope the crowds will once again be there to encourage us and help us do better. No player or team can succeed without the support of its fans, and we look forward to them being behind us when we start a new era in Pakistan cricket,” Misbah said. There will be three T20Is played also besides the 50-over contests.
It all starts on September 27 at the National Stadium in Karachi. The three-match ODI series will be followed by as many T20Is which are scheduled to take place at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
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