PCB chief Naqvi urges nation to refrain from criticising cricket team ahead of T20 World Cup – Sport

“Let’s support our players win or lose, we stand with them,” says the PCB chief.

It was an evening of green ties, selfies and prayers for victory. Just a few weeks away from the ICC Men’s T20 cricket World Cup and the evening before today’s T20 match between Pakistan and England at the Oval stadium in London, the men in green shirts were hosted at Pakistan House in London for a dinner reception.

Men, women and children thronged the spacious lawn at the venue, which is the official residence of the Pakistan High Commissioner in London.

Located in the upscale Hampstead suburb, the road leading to the house was lined by cars and the official tour bus of the men’s cricket team. Inside, there was a crush of people waiting to get a glimpse of their favourite cricketer and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who also made an appearance to cheer the team on.

Wrist spinner Shadab Khan and selector Wahab Riaz at the Pakistan High Commissioner’s residence in London.—Photo courtesy: Author

The dinner was hosted by High Commission Mohammad Faisal, with Interior Minister and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Mohsin Naqvi as the chief guest.

As the speeches opened, the master of ceremonies invited the interior minister to speak with some attempted comedy.

“Did you bring your lucky cricket bat? Because our team will need all the luck they can get.”

A silence fell over the crowd, as the players looked to the PCB chief to begin an address high on emotion.

“It is my request that for the next one week, please let’s support our players. We have full trust in them, and each Pakistani needs to tell them it doesn’t matter if they win or lose: we stand with them,” Naqvi said.

“If they go to the US [for the T20 World Cup] with this approach, they will bring the World Cup. Please stop criticising them for four weeks,” he said.

The players laughed appreciatively, with more than one saying “inshallah”.

Next came the mayor, who expanded on Naqvi’s plea to refrain from criticising the team and even joked that maybe people should also stop criticising politicians ahead of the elections in the UK.

He said that cricket “ignites passion and unites nations”.

“In sports, people get criticism — especially cricketers from Pakistan,” said Khan.

He looked at the players in the garden and said that he appreciated there is “a lot of pressure on them from around the globe”

“Remember the reason why you first started playing. Enjoy the next four weeks — I can promise you in London there is no rain tomorrow [Thursday]! That’s a record-breaking promise from a Pakistani-origin mayor of London.” The crowd laughed.

Khan continued, “Babar bhai, in many eyes you are the best batsman in the world. This team has the best trio of pace bowlers.”

Ace pace Shaheen Shah Afridi at the Pakistan High Commissioner’s residence in London.—Photo courtesy: Author

About today’s match between England and Pakistan, Khan said, “You are up against the world champions. Remember how you felt when Pakistan won the World Cup in ‘92, the T20 World Cup in 2009 and the Champion’s Trophy some years back — that’s what you can do by uniting a nation.”

The event was attended by other notables, including former caretaker prime minister Anwarul Haq Kakar and British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott.

Former cricketing greats Zaheer Abbas and Asif Nawaz were also at the reception, with many children lining up to get cricketing advice or a selfie.

Children lineup for a selfie with Pakistan legend Zaheer Abbas.—Photo courtesy: Author

“What’s your advice for someone starting out as a cricketer?” one young boy asked before he posed for a photo with Abbas.

He responded, “Bat as much as you can. Never try to get out. Cricket is a sport where, if you are in the ground with the bat on the crease, everyone will respect you. If you are off the crease, you lose respect.”

A man waited in line to introduce his son to Abbas, describing him as a “cricketing legend”.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Abbas said he feels positive about the men’s team going into the T20 World Cup.

“It’s a good team and I am hoping they will do well. I have been going everywhere to watch Pakistan play but matches have rained off,” Abbas said.

I hope the boys can play [today] so the boys can have some practice. I am very hopeful that the team wins the World Cup,“ he added.

“You never know. Inshallah I am hoping for a positive outcome. All our players are good, we are hoping they will perform. They are all experienced playing in foreign countries as well as playing PSL,” said Abbas.

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