Home ground: The cricket stadiums of Pakistan
As Pakistan is all set to host eight games of Pakistan Super League this season, Nadeem F. Paracha turns the flood lights on at Pakistani stadiums and some of the most iconic moments that took place in these grounds.
Eight games of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) this year will be played in Pakistan. Five in Karachi and three in Lahore. This is a refreshing development, considering the fact that no major international cricket matches have been held in cricket-crazy Pakistan since 2009 when the visiting Sri Lankan Test squad was attacked by armed extremists in Lahore.
In the last three years, Zimbabwe, the West Indies and a World XI did make whistle stops to play a handful of limited overs games; but their exit from the country was as quick as their arrival. Yet, these wham-bam tours did suggest that international cricket just might be trickling back in a country which, before 2009, was a major international cricket destination.
The PSL has been instrumental in putting Pakistan on the map of the lucrative major cricket franchise leagues which mirror premier football leagues in Europe and South America. Just like the Pakistan cricket team that has been playing all of its ‘home’ series in the UAE, the PSL’s birth too took place there.
From 2017, as the security situation in Pakistan somewhat improved, some games of the league began to take place in Pakistan. Even though plans for holding a Pakistani premier cricket league were on the cards after the success of the Indian Premier League in 2008, it was under the direction of publisher and journalist Najam Sethi that the PSL was finally launched. Sethi became the chairman of the league and then the chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) before his resignation in 2018.
PSL was a massive hit as a commercial entity and Sethi utilized the successful holding of the few games of the league that were played in Karachi and Lahore to lure the attention of the ICC and other cricket boards to gradually begin sending teams to Pakistan.
Before 2009, Pakistan had been a major cricket destination, though no major cricket event/series has been held in the country for almost a decade now. But since eight high profile matches of this year’s PSL will be held in Karachi and Lahore, this is a good opportunity to introduce (to a whole new generation of cricket buffs) the many cricket stadiums that Pakistan still possesses, many of which held important Test and ODI series, including games during two cricket world cups (1987, 1996).
City: Karachi (Sindh).
Seating Capacity: 40,000.
Home Ground of Karachi Kings.
- The National Stadium is Pakistan’s largest cricket stadium.
- The first Test match at the stadium was played in 1955 (Pakistan vs. India).
- The first ODI here was played in 1980 (Pakistan vs. West Indies).
- Pakistan has played more than half of its Tests in Pakistan on this ground. It has lost just two. Once the National Stadium was known as ‘Pakistan’s cricket fortress.’
- Despite of it being the most successful home ground of the Pakistan cricket team, it also has a history of experiencing the largest number of riots and disturbances during matches (especially between the late 1960s and early 1980s).
- Tests here were badly affected by rioting in 1968 (against England) and 1969 (against New Zealand). Rioting also took place here during a Test (against West Indies) in 1981 and an ODI (against Australia) in 1983. The ODI was eventually abandoned. Things began to improve from the late 1980s onward.
- The stadium was expanded for the 1987 Cricket World Cup. It hosted three games during the tournament.
- Further improvements were made for the 1996 World Cup. The National Stadium hosted three matches during the 1996 tournament.
- The National Stadium had a matting wicket (jute) between 1955 and late 1950s which helped seam bowling. Its pitches were flat and batting-friendly after matting was removed. They remained this way till the mid-1970s. The grounds-men then began to prepare square turners. But from 1982, the pitches at the stadium became more sporting. They would offer seam and bounce to fast bowlers at the start of the Test, become stable in the middle, and offer some spin at the tail-end of the match. ODI strips remained batting-friendly, though.
- National Stadium is also famous for offering swing to quick bowlers. Experts believe this is due to the steady sea-breeze which often blows across the stadium.
City: Lahore (Punjab).
Seating Capacity: 27,000.
Home ground of the Lahore Qalandars.
- The ground’s original name was Lahore Stadium. It was changed to Gaddafi Stadium in 1974.
- The headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and cricket’s main training academy in the country are both situated at Gaddafi Stadium.
- The first international match was played here in 1959 (a Test match against Australia).
- A Test match against England was affected by rioting in 1968. In 1977 another Test (also against England) witnessed a riot between police and spectators.
- Three matches were held at Gaddafi Stadium during the 1987 Cricket World Cup. This included one of the tournament’s semi-finals.
- The stadium was expanded and renovated just before the 1996 Cricket World Cup. It held three matches during the event, including the 1996 World Cup final.
- The last Test match to be played in Pakistan was at Gaddafi Stadium in 2009. It was abandoned midway after the bus carrying the visiting Sri Lankan squad was attacked by terrorists.
- Pitches at the stadium have largely been batting-friendly, except during a Test match against India in 1978 and a Test (also against India) in 2004 when green-top tracks were prepared to help fast bowlers.
- The first ODI was played here in 1978 against England.
- The first T-20 international was played here in 2015 against Zimbabwe.
City: Faisalabad (Punjab).
Seating Capacity: 18,000.
Home ground of the Faisalabad Wolves (Non-PSL team).
- Once known as Layallpur Stadium (the old name of Faisalabad), Iqbal Stadium was renovated and given the status of a frontline cricket stadium in 1978.
- Traditionally, Iqbal Stadium pitches have been flat. Out of the 24 Tests held here, 14 have ended in a draw.
- It was at this stadium that the infamous spat between former England captain Mike Getting and Pakistani umpire, Shakoor Rana, took place in 1988. The incident became a diplomatic nightmare for the governments of both the countries.
- The last Test held at this stadium was in 2006. The last ODI played here was in 2008.
Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium
City: Rawalpindi (Punjab).
Seating Capacity: 25,000.
Home ground of the Rawalpindi Rams (Non-PSL team).
Arbab Niaz Stadium
City: Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
Seating Capacity: 20,000.
Home ground of the Peshawar Zalmi (PSL)
- Arbab Niaz Stadium emerged as a frontline cricket ground in the early 1980s, but it did not host a Test match till 1995. It was mostly used for ODI games.
- The pitches here have largely aided spinners.
- The last Test played here was in 2003.
Multan Cricket Stadium
City: Multan (Punjab).
Seating Capacity: 35,000.
Home ground of the Multan Sultans (PSL)
City: Sialkot (Punjab)
Constructed: 1920s (by the British).
Seating Capacity: 18,000.
Home ground of the Sialkot Stallions (Non-PSL team).
- This stadium was first constructed in the 1920s by the British. In the 1950s it was named Jinnah Park. In 1979 it was upgraded and renamed Jinnah Stadium.
- Pakistan played its first ever ODI at home on this ground in 1976. It was against New Zealand.
- Jinnah Stadium was known for its green-top pitches that helped fast bowlers.
- A 1984 Pakistan-India ODI here was stopped midway and abandoned after news of the assassination of the then Indian PM, Indira Gandhi, reached the ground. India were batting.
City: Hyderabad (Sindh)
Home ground of Hyderabad Hawks (non-PSL).
- The world’s 1000th Test match was played at Niaz Stadium (Pakistan vs. New Zealand) in 1984.
- Swing bowler, Jalaluddin, took the first hat-trick for Pakistan in ODIs during an ODI against Australia in 1983 at Niaz Stadium.
- The Niaz Stadium pitch was traditionally placid and batting-friendly.
Jinnah Stadium (Gujranwala)
City: Gujranwala (Punjab)
Home side: None.
City: Sheikupura (Punjab)
Home side: None.
Ayub National Stadium
Home side is Quetta Gladiators (PSL).
Constructed: 1885 (by the British)
- It was Pakistan’s first international cricket venue.
- It stopped being a Test venue after the construction of Gaddafi Stadium in 1959.
- It is now mostly used for club cricket games.
- It has Pakistan’s only cricket museum.
Southland Cricket Club Ground
Constructed: Late 1980s.
Formerly known as DHA Stadium, just one Test has been held here. It was against Zimbabwe in 1993.