- PSL fever gripped the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi as Islamabad United organized an exhibition match and a series of events for their fans to celebrate their success in the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League.
Headlining the week of activities was an exhibition match at the Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi on the 20th of September 2016. The star studded event saw members of the PSL winning team facing off against each other under the leadership duos of Dean Jones and Misbah-ul-Haq on one side, and Wasim Akram and Muhammad Sami on the other. The event also featured young players from the Islamabad Region sharing the field with their heroes, and perhaps most significantly, members of the Pakistan Women’s team playing in the match.
The highlight of the game was the several overs long partnership between Misbah, the most successful captain in Pakistan’s Test history, and Javeria Khan, the owner of the highest ODI score in the history of the Pakistan Women’s team. The partnership was eventually broken when Javeria fell to the bowling of Anam Amin, the leading woman spinner in the country. Joining Anam and Javeria from the ranks of the Pakistan Women were the highest run scorer in the national team’s ODI history, Bismah Maroof, and a twin international (having represented the country in both football and cricket) in the form of Diana Baig. This marked the first instance of members of the national teams of both genders playing together in Pakistan at such a stage.
Bismah Maroof echoed the thoughts of many of the players she ended up playing with on that night saying, “Sharing a dressing room with our legend Wasim Akram was an honour. The boys, led by him, created a very comfortable environment for us all in the dressing room, and it was fun to play with them on the field too.”
Those words were reiterated by Diana Baig, who played under the tutelage of Misbah on the night. Regarding the experience she said, “It was like a dream to play with somebody like Misbah bhai, who is one of my favourite cricketers ever. And it was even more special that I shared the field with Wasim bhai, who has been my hero since childhood. And the crowd only made it better. I’ve never played a match in Pakistan with such a big crowd. I’ve always wished that we could play and perform in our own country in front of a big crowd, and that wish was fulfilled today. “
Talking about the match Pakistan’s Test captain, Misbah-ul-Haq said, “Winning the PSL was a huge achievement for Islamabad United and to be able to share that experience with your fans is something that we wanted to do for a long time. I also want to especially thank our women cricketers for accepting Islamabad United’s invitation and playing with us in this match. This made it a truly unique experience.”
Javeria Khan, who shared that partnership with Misbah, went on to say, “Playing under Misbah was amazing. I found him quite humble and down to earth. I was confident and truly enjoyed the experience of playing with him. He was helpful and encourage me while batting and later in the field too. Sharing a dressing room with the likes of him and Dean Jones was a true honour.”
Regarding the crowd she went on to say, “I’ve played at the Pindi Stadium before but this time the environment was so different and so amazing. The crowd supported and encouraged us, and I do wish something like this happens more often from here on in. And thanks to Islamabad United for arranging such a match in the first place.”
The match itself was played in high spirits, with it becoming a chance for past greats to relive their glory days. Batting first “Deano United” scored 106 runs in their allotted 12 overs, with their two skippers leading the charge. Misbah scored 21 off 15 deliveries and Jones provided the late innings charge with 26 off 9 balls.
Talking about the game and his return to playing colours the bowling team’s captain, Wasim Akram said, “It feels great to be able to come and celebrate with the people who matter the most – our fans. It was a joy to play in Pakistan again, and I loved playing in front of our fans. It is also great to see that PSL is providing such a platform for fans and cricketers alike.”
Dean Jones echoed those thoughts saying, “I love the energy in this country. As a team, we firmly believe in our message of unity and this celebration is all about that. I want to thank our fans for supporting us throughout and this has just renewed our commitment to bringing home the trophy next season. I loved just the sheer number of people that came out to support us at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, but the ground must be getting smaller if I can hit two sixes on it!”
In response, “Waz United” chased down the target with a ball to spare thanks to some late order hitting from the younger of the two Mohammad Irfans on show. Irfan was one of the ten youngsters from the Islamabad Region Cricket Association who were selected for the game.
Among the features of the game was Wasim Akram and the other Mohammad Irfan, the seven footer more familiar to international audiences, sharing the new ball for Waz United and the 55 year old Dean Jones hitting two sixes in the final over his team’s innings.
Islamabad United also became the first PSL franchise to organize a number of fan engagement events through the course of this week, in doing so bringing the local fans closer to the PSL experience. Among these events was a visit to a school on the outskirts of Islamabad run by The Citizens Foundation, one of the largest NGOs in the country. Educational institutions were at the forefront of the activity for PSL winning team with visits to Beaconhouse School System’s Margalla Campus in the heart of Islamabad, and visits to two of the foremost institutions of higher learning in Lahore, Forman Christian College and the Lahore University of Management Sciences.