Okay – I know cricket isn’t everyone’s ‘bag’, but personally I like it. I’ve only been to two cricket games on the sub-continent. I should rectify that some day. I went to a one day international in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2002 which was really a lot of fun. But I’m writing about my day at, and trying to get to, the cricket in Multan, Pakistan back in 2004.
This was a test series – a test match is a cricket game played over five days and each side gets two innings for those who were wondering – between India and Pakistan. It had been a long time since India had toured Pakistan, mostly due to security reasons. A few years after this series, pretty much all the international teams stopped touring Pakistan due to security concerns when the Sri Lankan team was the target of a terrorist attack in Lahore.
Which is really sad, like all over the sub-continent cricket is the number one sports obsession in Pakistan. Anyways, this series was an historic one and so, being in the region I decided I couldn’t miss the opportunity.
Unlike other shorter forms of cricket, test cricket is not that well attended over in Pakistan, so I was not going to miss out on a ticket because it was sold out. I was in Multan in time for the second day of the test. It was a pretty flat track and India were batting. They batted the full day and well into the second day up until around an hour before the end of the day, ‘stumps’.
The town of Multan is perhaps not the prettiest place on Earth, surrounded by desert, a lot of mudbrick houses and so forth, but it is an interesting place, with unique architecture and very warm and friendly people. I was there completely on my own, no-one else I’d met in Lahore where I’d entered Pakistan had Multan on their itinerary. And so it was, I made my way to the stadium shortly after play had started.
It’s no big deal to turn up an hour late to a day of test cricket. Days generally go at least seven hours including breaks. It’s an incredibly dry place and I don’t recall a single cloud the whole time I was there.
So I took a taxi to the ground. Where to buy tickets? I could not find a single ticket office anywhere at the ground. I circled it. I met a bunch of security guards who were very friendly guys who kept asking me to take photos. My taxi driver was also super friendly, he helped me look, but eventually we got the information we needed – tickets were on sale at booth somewhere in town. On top of that, I wasn’t allowed to bring a camera into the ground.
So, the taxi driver took me to the booth, a metal box on the side of the road where I was able to buy a ticket. Then I was taken back to my hotel where I left my camera. I think I grabbed some lunch too. And then it was back to the ground.
It was midway through the middle session of the day (there are three), and I got to see the great Indian pocket master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar, make 199 not out as India made over 600 runs, declaring their innings closed with a bit over an hour to play in the day. The Indian captain declared the innings closed with Tendulkar needing just one run to get his double hundred, which is something this match is remembered for. The opening batsmen for Pakistan got to around 40 without getting out at the end of the day’s play.
But the day hadn’t ended there. The security guards invited me to hang out with them at the hotel where they were also working at, where the sides were staying. We spent a couple of hours laughing, singing and telling tales in the evening.
I may have only seen three hours of cricket, I had seen a remarkable innings of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, been to an historic test match and met a lot of friendly, generous people. My day at the cricket had been so much more than just a day at the cricket. It had been an unforgettable day. May the Journey Never End!