Sarfaraz, other players urge massive turnout in Sri Lanka tour opener


KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmad has hoped for a full house at National Stadium on Friday when Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the first match of a three match ODI series in Karachi.

The wicket-keeper batsman said that leading Pakistan in a bilateral home series is going to be the highlight of his career and he wants the fans in Karachi to make it more memorable for him.

“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. 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,” Sarfaraz said in a statement on Tuesday.

“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,” he added.

The Pakistan skipper added that 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,” Sarfaraz said.

The game is all about the fans: Babar Azam
Sarfaraz’s comments were echoed by his deputy Babar Azam who will play his first match as Pakistan ODI team’s vice-captain on Friday.

The 24-year-old Babar recalls how he witnessed a house-full National Stadium on TV as a youngster, when Green Shirts faced their arch rivals India, at the historic venue.

He now hopes to experience the same feeling of a jam-packed home crowd cheering for the team.

“As a youngster, I have seen a packed National Stadium for ODIs on television and the two matches that immediately come to my mind were 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 steered us to an eight wicket victory,” he recalled.

“As a middle-order batsman, I am hoping there will be a similar crowd number when we will play against Sri Lanka. The game is all about the fans and they need to come out to support cricket and the teams,” Babar hoped.

The newly-appointed vice captain added that Friday will be one of his biggest days when he will take the field as Pakistan vice-captain.

“I want the entire country as well as the National Stadium crowd to make this a memorable day for me,” Babar said.

Karachi, the hub of cricket lovers
Young spinner Shadab Khan recalled the enthusiasm and passion of the Karachi crowd he witnessed during the Pakistan Super League 2019 and credited the tournament’s success to the backing of the Karachi crowd.

“I look forward to a similar response from the Karachi crowds, to come and support us. As professional athletes, we need our fans to be behind us to motivate and inspire us,” said Shadab.

Misbah gets emotional
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has said that Friday’s match will be an emotional one for him as he 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 time has moved really fast,” he said.

“But one thing that stands firm is the history of Karachi crowds, which have always turned up in big numbers to support cricket. They have weathered all conditions and contributed in the success of international matches hosted at the National Stadium,” the head coach said.

“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 hoped.

Big in celebrations, big in numbers
Fast bowler Wahab Riaz also praised cricket spectators of Karachi saying that the fans in Karachi are in a privileged position to personally show their gratitude to the Sri Lanka cricket team and celebrate the resumption of bilateral ODI cricket, which is a stepping stone for Test cricket.

“I urge them to be part of the celebrations and come in big numbers to show the world the real image of Pakistan and its people,” Wahab said.

“As a player, I know the reputation of the National Stadium, which has graced some of the greatest matches and boasted some of the most iconic players of all-time. I assure all fans that the two sides include players who have all the ingredients of joining the club of legends and in this background, request them to see in action making of the modern day star,” the fast bowler said.