Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 tournament has at last given the country's cricket fans something to cheer about after weeks of controversy.
At last, something to be proud about for Pakistan fans
Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 tournament has at last given the country's cricket fans something to cheer about after weeks of controversy surrounding the game at the national level.
The Faysal Bank T20 Cup was played with pride and passion and ended on a high on Saturday night when the Lahore Lions beat Karachi in a thrilling final watched by tens of thousands in a packed stadium and many millions on television in Pakistan and around the world.
The week-long tournament featured 13 teams from 11 of Pakistan's largest cities, and it was an unqualified success from start to finish. It was a short but very welcome respite from the troubles surrounding Pakistan cricket these days.
This year's Faysal tournament had everything: world-class players, talented youngsters, packed stadiums and passionate local support. There were great batting performances and wonderful hitting, upsets on the field with underdogs emerging triumphant and an exciting format with intelligent scheduling that, for once, did not detract from the action.
And it ended with us all wanting more.
The competition also demonstrated the huge wealth of cricketing talent in Pakistan.
All the top Pakistan players participated in it with great enthusiasm and passion. In fact, the only ones missing were the three suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
More than the cricketing talent though, the tournament showcased the Pakistani public's pent-up demand for quality cricket in their country.
Given the ongoing security situation in the country, it is unlikely international cricket will return to Pakistan any time soon and events such as this are the only avenue for cricket fans to witness their "stars" on their home turf.
Emerging as Pakistan's third national T20 Champions (after Faisalabad and Sialkot) is not the only thing Lahore should be proud of today. The city also hosted a spectacular competition. The matches were held at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan's premier cricket venue, and all were played in front of great crowds.
Starved of international cricket, the people turned out in huge numbers. The stands were packed and thousands of people had to be turned away even before the final had started as the Qaddafi was full to capacity.
Thankfully, there were no security issues, and no partisan behaviour from the spectators as all national players were supported and cheered.
The other key ingredient which makes the Faysal Bank T20 Cup so popular, but is missing from much of Pakistani domestic cricket, is inter-regional rivalry.
As has been argued by Imran Khan, among others, for more than two decades now, all of Pakistan's domestic cricket needs to be organised along regional lines.
Sadly, the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) usual lack of professionalism blights the domestic scene too.
This short, sharp, punchy tournament proved that indigenous Pakistani cricket does indeed work and is a great success if done right.
Global scrutiny soon returns though, as Pakistan take on South Africa in the UAE amid the backdrop of the ICC's firm directive to the PCB to improve its act in 30 days, or face severe sanctions.
The issues affecting Pakistan cricket are much bigger than one domestic competition, and would require more than a week to resolve.
However, for this one week at least, cricket in Pakistan was synonymous with joy and excitement, and that alone is no bad thing.
Yasser Alvi is a writer at PakPassion.net