“Grounds Turned Into Wedding Halls”: Shahid Afridi On Pakistan’s Struggles

Pakistan cricket has been on a roll this year. After qualifying for the Asia Cup final, the Babar Azam-led side also entered the title clash of the 2022 T20 World Cup. Though they lost to England in the final on Sunday, Pakistan showed enough gumption to fight even after setting a low target of 138 for Jos Buttler‘s side. Pakistan’s purple patch is a far-cry from the days when international teams stopped touring the country, following an attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009. It took teams a long time to start touring Pakistan again.

Now that Pakistan is back to being one of the best limited-overs sides, former captain Shahid Afridi recounted the days of struggle.

“Our grounds were turned into wedding halls. We wanted to play on our grounds. It was a difficult period for Pakistan cricket, we were missing our crowd. The people who have worked to make this happen, have put in a lot of effort. The board, the government. They played an important role. We used to convince cricketers outside when we used to go and play in other leagues, county cricket, that through their help we’ll be able to bring cricket back in our country. When cricket returned, a good message was sent from Pakistan, that we are sports loving nation and that we want to watch and play cricket on our ground here,” Shahid Afridi said on Samaa TV.

“That difficult period has passed. The teams started touring Pakistan. Some pulled out Australia came, England came. These were things our crowd was missing.”

Talking about the 2022 T20 World Cup final, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran starred as England edged Pakistan by five wickets to become the sport’s first dual white-ball champions, holding both the 50 and 20-over titles. Jos Buttler’s side held Pakistan to 137-8 in front of a partisan 80,462 fans at a heaving Melbourne Cricket Ground, with player-of-the-match and tournament Curran bagging 3-12 and Adil Rashid chipping with 2-22.

In reply, England slumped to 49-3 in the sixth over as they struggled to get any momentum against a fiery pace attack, with boundaries hard to come by.

But Stokes (52 not out) and Moeen Ali (19) used their experience and cool heads to guide England to 138-5 with six balls to spare, climaxing a riveting tournament that spanned 45 games over nearly a month.

With AFP inputs

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