Pakistan’s success, or lack of it, in the cricketing world has always been attributed to the power of the streets, their influence and the time spent on them by aspiring cricketers polishing their trade.
With a majority confined to the streets rather than prepared pitches in club surroundings, the younger years, in slippers and shalwar kamiz, with a bat and taped tennis ball, often shape the individual’s future.
Late to embrace but quick to adapt, Pakistan’s streets are as much creditworthy for the diadem as is the short duration of the format itself.
As a street cricketer, you aspire to be the fastest, the strongest and the one leading your side to victory in every match you take on the field. Bowl fast, hit hard and scramble — the key to success on the streets. But as kids, you often wonder how fast your bowling is, how that particular delivery would measure up against Shoaib Akhtar or if your winning six was hit further than Shahid Afridi’s brutal assault against Muttiah Muralitharan.
You see the pitch-map on television, be amazed at the brutality of a particular batsman or sit in awe at how Mohammad Asif can pitch the ball in the same place regularly. You dream of playing cricket just so that you could know how fast you are or to be able to grab bragging rights for the furthest hit.
As a street cricketer, such things seem a dream. With the Sprite Cricket Next challenge, they become reality.
“This is no talent hunt, we’re not promising the next Javed Miandad to come from this setup,” Bassam Qureshi, junior brand manager Sprite, told The Express Tribune. “All we know is that gali [street] cricket is what matters to these kids and we’re here to take it to the next level.”
The level has brought street crickets on par with their international counterparts with facilities even club cricketers do not witness at home or abroad. To have your bowling speed measured, to check how far that last hit was, speed off the bat, where each delivery pitched, how fast it was and to win cricket bats at the end, is a level unprecedented for individuals still in their early teens.
“Gali cricket is a form of cricket that is often neither recognised nor supported despite being the most played form,” said Rizwan Khan, Coca-Cola’s Country Manager. “With this effort, we’re giving the raw talent present in neighbourhoods, schools and grounds across Pakistan an opportunity to showcase their talent.”
The programme will visit seven cities across Pakistan and will culminate in a grand finale in Dubai where Pakistan’s fastest and strongest street cricketers will showcase their talent.
For some, it will be a dream come true. For the rest, the street-mad cricketers, being part of the programme and to be able to say “I’m faster than Abdul Razzaq” is prize enough.