KARACHI: When Australian cricket fan Luke Gillian final visited Pakistan in 1998, dwelling supporters threw stones at him when he ventured out in public.
These days everybody desires a selfie.
Gillian is again in Pakistan with a small troupe of Australian tremendous followers, dubbed the “Fanatics”, on their first tour of the nation in practically 1 / 4 of a century — and has been blown away by the welcome they’ve acquired.
Australia for twenty-four years, together with many worldwide groups, declined to tour Pakistan on safety grounds.
The scenario turned worse after a deadly assault on the Sri Lanka crew bus in Lahore in 2009, after which Pakistan needed to play “home” video games overseas for a decade, principally within the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
But the cricket-mad nation is lapping up the present tour by the world’s top-ranked Test crew, which can see the three-Test sequence go to a decider in Lahore subsequent week after attracts in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
“It was perceived to be too dangerous to go outside,” Gillian mentioned of his go to on Australia’s final tour in 1998.
“When I did get outside there were large groups of people walking in the streets and I had rocks thrown at me.”
Nearly 1 / 4 of a century later, attitudes have modified. “I reckon, in Rawalpindi, 500 photographs were taken of me every day, easily,” the 51-year-old from Victoria informed AFP.
Piece of cake
“I have been given I don’t know how many cups of tea, how many pieces of cake, bottles of Pepsi, water and just little incidentals people have given us as a ‘thank you’ — free haircuts, free laundry.”
Like most Australians, Gillian took to cricket as a baby.
“You grow up with the cricket in your blood,” he mentioned. “You often hold a cricket bat or a ball before you know how to walk, and as soon as you can walk, you mark your run-up to bowl.”
Over the years he has visited each main cricket-playing nation — even socialising with Australian greats equivalent to Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke and Justin Langer.
But these days are a factor of the previous, with fashionable gamers beneath intense social media scrutiny, coupled with strict anti-match fixing protocols to maintain gamers away from “undesirable” components equivalent to unlawful bookmakers.
“Now there is a strong disconnect between myself and the team,” mentioned Gillian.
“Let’s go back 15 years… I would still get text messages (from players), saying: ‘We are going to go for a beer in this place after the game if you want to join us’. It’s gone and I miss it,” he mentioned.
Gillian mentioned he determined to make this journey as a lot to assist Pakistan’s efforts to re-establish itself as a protected cricketing vacation spot as to shout for Australia.
“I am here for the game, to show the outside world that we can actually watch cricket and travel to Pakistan and be safe, be happy and enjoy,” he mentioned.
“I believe that love, and the embrace of one another and the sport itself, if that goes throughout to the broader viewers, then it may possibly promote the good sport and promote the join between the 2 nations and two cultures.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter.”