To celebrate the return of international cricket to Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has roped in singer-actor Ali Zafar and singer-philanthropist Shehzad Roy to perform at the opening and closing ceremonies of the series.
After almost six years of being forced to form a home away from home in the UAE, the Pakistani cricket team is finally gearing up to play in their home ground. With Zimbabwe’s arrival in Pakistan for ODI and T20 series in May, cricket will make its much-anticipated return to Pakistani soil.
Sharing his excitement over his scheduled performance, Ali Zafar told The Express Tribune that he’s thrilled to bits. “It has been way too long since international cricket happened in Pakistan,” he said, adding, “I felt sad for all the years the players couldn’t engage in cricket in their own nation.”
Shehzad too is excited, “It is a huge honour for me to perform at the closing of this match and I hope this is just the first of many international matches to follow.”
Following the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan has not hosted any international cricket matches. Increasing security concerns also resulted in the International Cricket Council (ICC) stripping the PCB of the right to host the Champions Trophy in 2009 and co-hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
“Our cricketers have suffered massively as a result of the 2009 attacks,” said Ali. Reminiscing about the past, he added, “I remember the time when foreign players would visit Pakistan, stay in local hotels and often get surrounded by fans. Not only did that improve our game ethic and ties with those countries but also boosted our economy.”
In the wake of the recent attack on the Ismaili community in Karachi, a low-spirited Ali said, “We shouldn’t remain silent in such crucial times because that’s when everyone should take a stand and reclaim the Pakistan we once used to own.”
Shehzad too shared his views, “Cricket is a great unifier in this country. It brings together Pakistanis from all socioeconomic classes, religions and ethnicities. This match marks the revival of international cricket in Pakistan and comes at a time when Pakistanis need to unite and become one entity.”
Ali will be performing his songs Udainge and Masti at the event. He said his performance is a means of acknowledging the fact that like musicians and actors, cricketers also are Pakistan’s rock stars.
The Zimbabwe tour, which will take place between May 22 and May 31, will comprise two T20s and three ODIs, all of which will be played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Apart Ali and Shehzad, Annie Khalid will also perform on the ocassion.