Lahore longs for international cricket five years after attack

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrives with flowers to receive blessings at the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday 4 April 2018. On wednesday (4), Wickremesinghe survived a no-confidence motion in the Sri Lankan parliament with a 46 vote majority after a 12-hour debate with 122 MPs voted in his support while 76 MPs voting to remove the prime minister. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

LAHORE, March 3, 2014 (AFP) – For more than fifty years, Haji Basheer has prepared the pitch at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium and witnessed some of cricket’s biggest moments including two World Cups. The 74-year-old has been serving at the ground since it hosted the first match in November 1959 but a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus on March 3, 2009 put an end to visits by international teams.

“It’s five years now that we have not seen any top-level international cricket in Pakistan,” Basheer told AFP. “My heart aches when I see matches go on in other countries and I always pray that I live to see the day when international cricket resumes in Pakistan.”

Eight people were killed and seven Sri Lankan players were left injured in the attacks five years ago, which resulted in the suspension of all international cricket in Pakistan and forced the national team to play its home matches at neutral venues such as the United Arab Emirates.

Basheer remembers the day vividly.

“It was terrible,” he said. “It was the third day of the second Test and I was at the ground when I suddenly heard gunfire and grenade attacks.

“I ran out towards the gate and after a few minutes a police