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Pakistani youth enjoy night cricket during Ramadan
Streets and fields are full of youth from taraveeh until sehri
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – Devotion to Islam and love of sports go together in Pakistan, where one can find thousands of fasting youth playing Twenty20 matches between the taraveeh night prayer and sehri, the pre-dawn meal.
“Hundreds of night cricket tournaments are organised all over the country,” Abdul Wahab, manager of the National Cricket Club, who formerly represented the Peshawar U-19 team in several national-level tournaments, told Central Asia Online. “Some are organised officially in popular stadiums, but the majority are played on small grounds or in streets with makeshift lighting.”
One of the biggest cricket galas in Pakistan is the Dr. Muhammad Ali Shah Ramadan Night Cricket Tournament in Karachi.
The tournament is taking place at Asghar Ali Shah Stadium, one of a few stadiums in the country with floodlights for night cricket. The stadium can hold 8,000 fans, but the games are televised to a much larger audience.
The event, which has been played for the past few years, is one of the best organised Ramadan nighttime tournaments, Hakimullah, a club cricketer from Karachi, told Central Asia Online.
“Some of the tournaments are profitable too, as in one tournament the prize money for the winning team is Rs. 200,000 (US $2,200), while the man of the match in the final will get a motorbike,” he added.
Playing at the university
The Directorate of Sports, University of Peshawar, organised a cricket tournament in connection with Independence Day celebrations August 14.
“It’s a healthy activity,” said Muhammad Naeem, a young cricketer. “Not only the students in the campus but sports lovers from all over Peshawar come to watch the night tournament at the University of Peshawar.”
Involving youth in sports not only improves their physical skills but also keeps them mentally fit and thinking positively, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Sports Director-General Khan Zeb told Central Asia Online.
KP has started sponsoring more such activities to keep youth happy and healthy.
“Apart from the Ramadan tournaments, the KP government is holding a series of tournaments, sports galas,” he said. “We have also revived the indigenous games to engage the youth in positive activities.”
Night play requirements
Sometimes, special accommodations need to be made for playing cricket at night. For example, youth mostly use a soft ball, rather than the standard hard ball, and wrap it with white tape to increase its nighttime visibility.
The soft ball is better for play on streets and small playgrounds because it doesn’t fly as far off the bat, said Haji Asad, a sports lover from Achar village on the outskirts of Peshawar.
“We have also arranged generators so in case of power breakdown, which is frequent because of shortages in this country, the lights stay on,” he said.
Regardless of the venue or the lighting issues, the night cricket draws praise.
“It was all fun during the holy month to celebrate it in our own way,” said Abdul Majid, after arriving by motorbike from a distant village to enjoy a tournament semi-final at Wazir Bagh, a public garden in suburban Peshawar.
Other night sports popular
Other sports lovers during Ramadan nights take up volleyball, football and badminton.
“The thirst and the heat don’t let you play any game in the daytime,” said volleyball player Bashir Ahmad, resident of Inayat Garhai on GT Road.
Squash and badminton courts in Peshawar Cantonment and surrounding areas remain crowded after taraveeh.
“It is not easy to play in the daytime while you are fasting, and that is why many of the players prefer to play in the night,” said Nawaz Khan, organiser of a badminton tournament in the Swati Phatak area. “Our tournament has begun in the first week of Ramadan and will probably end on August 17.”