After a tragic blast in front of the Punjab Assembly that left 15 dead and over 100 injured, PSL resumed on Wednesday. Defending champions Islamabad United were up against Quetta Gladiators at the iconic Sharjah stadium. Islamabad United won by 5 wickets thanks to Sam Billings’ smashing knock.
Cricket fans all over Pakistan had only one question on their minds after the Lahore blast, and that was regarding the PSL final.
An outpouring of support came from many individuals, but one of the most heart-warming messages came from Lahore Qalandars’ medium-pace bowler from New Zealand Grant Elliot. The same Elliot who smashed the penultimate ball of the World Cup semi-final over wide long-on and into the heaving stands to send 41,279 people going haywire. The bowler at the receiving end was none other than the finest fast bowler on the planet Dale Steyn, who sank to his haunches in utter despair. What Elliot did next really sets him apart: he bent down extending a hand and consoled Steyn. The Getty Images photographer Hannah Peters, who captured the touching moment between Steyn and Elliott, said it showed the respect between the two sides. The moment between Elliot and Steyn embodied the ‘spirit of cricket’ and immense respect between rivals familiar with the pain of losing closely contested finals.
On Sunday, New Zealand’s premier newspaper The New Zealand Herald ran a headline entitled “Former Black Caps set to end Pakistan’s cricket isolation” suggesting four ex-New Zealand players were in contention to be the first New Zealanders in more than 13 years to play a top-level cricket match in Pakistan.
When Elliot was asked about the gesture, he said he knew he could have easily found himself in Steyn’s shoes. “You have to feel compassion. Humble in victory, humble in defeat. I felt quite sorry for him. I felt quite sorry for a lot of the South African guys for losing the game,” he said. “It could have been us. It could have been me sitting there having missed the last two balls and I would have been pretty gutted as well, along with 40,000 people in the stadium.”
‘Insha Allah everything will be alright’
It is not surprising, then, that it had to be Elliot again; this time sympathising with Pakistanis, especially the fans of his team. In the video message shared on social media Tuesday, he said his thoughts are with everyone who lost their loved ones in the attack; he hoped everything will get better soon.
“Just wanted to send out a message to everyone in Lahore… following the blast that happened. Thinking of all those people, of loved ones and the people of Lahore, hoping that everyone is safe and Insha Allah everything will be alright,” Elliot said in the video. Last season, Peshawar Zalmi’s Darren Sammy endeared himself to Zalmi fans by saying thank you in Pushto language as well as tweeting in Pushto. In the opening ceremony of PSL, Islamabad United players dressed in green shalwar kameez. United’s Sam Billings was seen dancing in the dressing room wearing traditional Pakistani clothes. On Tuesday, the United’s official Facebook page released a video in which Billings is dancing and singing Dil Dil Pakistan. Lahore Qalandars’ player Chris Green recorded a message for fans in flawless Punjabi.
“Those who haven’t seen Lahore, haven’t really lived,” he said in Punjabi, a famous Punjabi saying associated with Lahore.
It is gestures like these which show there’s more to these players than just being T20 specialists.
On Sunday, New Zealand’s premier newspaper The New Zealand Herald ran a headline entitled “Former Black Caps set to end Pakistan’s cricket isolation’’ suggesting four ex-New Zealand players—Brendon McCullum, James Franklin, Grant Elliott and Nathan McCullum—were in contention to be the first New Zealanders in more than 13 years to play a top-level cricket match in Pakistan.
However, the status of PSL final to be held in Lahore is in serious jeopardy now. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa Tuesday said that Pakistan Army will extend full support to all concerned for holding PSL final in Lahore.
The status of foreign players’ participation became quite apparent on Tuesday when they refused to play in the final. “The foreign players have refused to play the final in Lahore after Monday’s blast but if the citizens of Pakistan want the final of the PSL to be held in Lahore, despite foreign players not participating in the final, then the final will be held in Lahore,” PSL Chairman Najam Sethi said in his statement.
He said that a new draft will be presented to respective franchises and their players on Feb 22 to make a decision on whether the final will be held in Lahore or not, adding that decision of holding the final of the PSL in Lahore would be taken after asking the players.
It is pertinent to mention here that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said Monday that Punjab is ready to host the final of PSL with full security, adding that Lahore is safe for the players even after Monday’s bombing.
PCB cancels round table conference:
The PCB had earlier announced to hold a round table conference in Lahore in March and had aimed to invite test cricketers like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad and others to discuss five-point agenda for improvement of cricket in Pakistan. However, PCB said in a statement Wednesday, “Owing to the recent development in Pakistan cricket, it has been decided to cancel the round table conference of cricketers planned by PCB in Lahore in March 2017 aimed at improvement of cricket in the country.”