Cricket in Pakistan is about as big as any sport gets in any one place. While perhaps not quite as big as it is in India, the sport in Pakistan is comparable to, say, American football in the United States, Premier League football in the UK, and a small handful of other examples in how much it captures the attention and passion of sports fans across the nation.
Despite this incredible popularity however, cricket in Pakistan can still feel somewhat remote or foreign to a lot of people in the larger, international audience. Particularly in the western world, people often think of cricket as something contested primarily between Europe, the West Indies, India, Pakistan, and Oceania, without zeroing in on the rich traditions in Pakistan specifically. That is to say, people tend to be aware that Pakistan takes its cricket seriously, but plenty of casual observers around the world couldn’t say much more on the subject.
One thing that might change this would be if people came to know some of the beautiful, historic, and appealing cricket grounds around the country. In fact, an article published just last year discussed plans by PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani to develop cricket for the international market. It specifically looked into six potential stadiums – some hypothetical renovations of existing grounds, and others brand new – that could attract more attention from international teams, and fan bases along with them. It’s a fascinating idea, and one that calls to mind some of the work that countries do in advance of hosting events like the Olympics or the World Cup, in that they tend to build and renovate some truly spectacular venues to show off to the world.
For the good of Pakistan’s cricket exposure over the long term, we probably ought to hope that some sort of sweeping plan like this is put into action effectively. In the meantime though, there’s something to be said for generating a little bit more publicity for some of the existing grounds around the country as well. Ultimately, there’s not much to separate some of them from some of the world’s favorite sporting venues, as evidenced by some of these comparisons….
Gaddafi Stadium – Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the United States, and is home to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. It’s commonly regarded as one of the best and most historic stadiums in the U.S., despite its relative simplicity. This same line could be written regarding Gaddafi Stadium’s place in Pakistan’s cricket history. Because the namesake of the stadium is polarizing internationally it might be somewhat off-putting to some, but it’s a beautiful cricket ground with decades of history and passionate crowds. Both this stadium and Lambeau Field were also first opened in the 1950s.
Abbottabad Cricket Stadium – Monte-Carlo Masters
Abbottabad Cricket Stadium is a fairly modest venue in and of itself, but its theatrical surroundings make it somewhat remarkable among cricket stadiums in the area. The mountains in the background of the playing field almost make for a sort of magnificent natural border that makes a more impressive stadium structure entirely unnecessary. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the main stadium at the Monte-Carlo Masters tennis tournament, which has been ranked as the most beautiful stadium in tennis. Granted, the Monte-Carlo Masters involves far more of a stadium complex, and rests on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. But looking inward from the sea, it is backed by nearby mountains in a similar fashion.
National Stadium Karachi – Augusta National
The Augusta National golf course in Georgia in the United States is considered unique for various reasons. It hosts the nation’s most prestigious and most exclusive tournament (The Masters), and it values tradition to an extraordinary extent, such that as one guide to the tournament points out that previous winners are allowed to re-enter the competition as many times as they’d like. Added to this reverence for history and tradition is the fact that it’s simply a beautiful course, known for its lush greenery and the sunny April weather in Georgia. National Stadium Karachi can’t claim to be quite so lovely on the eyes. However, its field is beautifully maintained, matching the vibrantly green impression made at Augusta National, and having been established as Pakistan’s primary cricket grounds since 1955, it has its own strong ties to history and tradition.
Jinnah Stadium Sialkot – St. James’ Park
These stadiums are really nothing alike visually or stylistically. However, the point here is to demonstrate the age of the sport in Pakistan, and the history tied to some of its venues and clubs. Jinnah Stadium in Sialkot is not one of the bigger venues, nor is it associated with one of Pakistan’s biggest cities, and yet it’s been in place since the 1920s. Not dissimilarly, St. James’ Park has been the venue for the English Premier League club Newcastle United for about 120 years, and has stayed in place despite not being any kind of major landmark in one of the UK’s biggest cities. In the case of St. James’ Park there have been significant renovations over time. But the mere fact that stadiums like these can last for decades and decades even in cities that aren’t the very biggest and most important speaks to the value of the respective sports.
This doesn’t mean Pakistan’s cricket organizations should openly advertise similarities, because of course the actual stadiums, when you come down to it, differ quite a bit from the counterparts listed here. The point, rather, is to illustrate that there’s a great deal of beauty and history in Pakistan’s most significant cricket grounds. If, one way or another, people were to come to recognize these grounds as special places, Pakistan may gain even more prominence as an international cricket power.