Karachi’s Ramazan cricket, the father of T20 internationals

AA Shah

SHAZIA HASAN

Karachi, Pakistan 28th June 2016: : There is the time between taraveeh prayers and sehri in Ramazan which is often utilised for organising healthy activities of which Ramazan cricket happens to be the most popular.

While many neighbourhood boys all over the city put up extra lights on their streets to play this type of night cricket, there are also around six or seven major Ramazan cricket tournaments under way from the first day of the holy month at big cricket grounds here.

Currently there are Ramazan tournaments going on under floodlights at Karachi’s Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium in Naya Nazimabad, at the Aghar Ali Shah Stadium in North Nazimbad Block-A, the Moin Khan Cricket Academy ground in DHA Phase-8, at Karachi Gymkhana in Saddar and at the Aga Khan Gymkhana at Garden to name just a few.

The matches kick off around 11pm usually and end at 2am. Having free entrance, a good crowd is seen there almost every day with more people coming on weekends. Though they comprise mostly men and children, some women, too, come to watch and while away the hours.

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“We are in the round matches phase right now. At the quarter-final stage, we also get live television coverage and even bigger crowds,” said Ahmer Ali Rizvi, marketing manager with the company involved in developing Naya Nazimabad.

About the Ramazan cricket matches at the spacious Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium, he said that after the round matches are over and the final eight teams have been decided on June 30, they will be creating a VIP enclosure for the spectators who also happen to be allottees of land in Naya Nazimbad.

“Though entry will remain free throughout the tournament, there will be complimentary mehndi applications and free bangles for the ladies in the VIP enclosure to add to the festive atmosphere here,” he said.

“We will also have everyone in the VIP enclosure fill out coupons for a lucky draw every day with a motorcycle among the bigger prizes.”

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The encounter between Sui Northern Gas Company and Alamgir Gymkhana in the early hours of Sunday morning had some well-known names of the cricketing world. The umpires, too, were professionals who have lent their services to many Pakistan Cricket Board matches.

“You know, when Ramazan cricket first started it lacked such professionals. The umpiring standards were nothing to be proud of. Umpires in those days would show up in shalwar-kameez and slippers or sandals,” said former first-class cricketer Shoaib Habib.

“Matches, too, never started on time,” he added.

“Then four former greats — Tasleem Arif, Fahimuddin Alvi, Khursheed Akhtar and Liaquat Ali — came up with the idea of the Super Cup, which happens to be the first proper Ramazan cricket tournament played in 1977/78 at the Eidgah Maidan.

“That was from where the umpiring standard picked up. Test umpires of later years of the likes of Riazuddin, Afzal Ahmed Rizvi, Shakeel Khan and Saleem Badar all look back to the annual Super Cup,” Habib said.

Meanwhile, Azam Khan, secretary, Pakistan Cricket Club and manager of the Alamgir Gymkhana Club, said that Ramazan cricket was what gave the world of cricket the Twenty20 edition of the game.

“There is only this much time between taraveeh prayers and sehri to play 20 overs each. The matches used to be over and decided in three hours. Today the T20 matches are played on the same lines,” he said.

 

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Courtesy Dawn

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