Pakistani Showbiz

Six years later…: Time to rock the stadium

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After almost six years of being forced to form a home away from home in the United Arab Emirates, the Pakistani cricket team is finally gearing up to play at their home ground. With Zimbabwe’s arrival in Pakistan for One Day International (ODI) and Twenty-20 (T20) series expected to be in May, international cricket will make their much-anticipated return to Pakistan. To celebrate 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, respectively.

Sharing his excitement over his scheduled performance, Ali Zafar told The Express Tribune he’s thrilled over the players’ homecoming. “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.” This is why he doesn’t want to miss any opportunity that gives the players a chance to celebrate. Shehzad shared, “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 an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan has not been a host to international cricket matches. Increasing security concerns also resulted in the International Cricket Council (ICC) stripping the PCB off 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 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.” The two songs that Ali will perform at the ceremony are Masti and Urainge. “Cricket is a great unifier in this country. It brings together Pakistanis from all socio-economic classes, religions and ethnicities,” said Shehzad. “This match marks the revival of international cricket in Pakistan and comes at a time when Pakistanis need to unite and become one entity,” he added.

Ali 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 31, will comprise two T20s and three ODIs, all of which will be played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Apart from him and Shehzad, Annie Khalid will also perform during the series.

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