Lahore versus Karachi is an old rivalry. For decades people of both cities have compared their culture, food, history, language and of course cricket in the spirit of friendly banter. The inception of Pakistan Super League in 2016 gave this rivalry another boost, and on Tuesday night all grudges will be settled in the all-important final, played in National Stadium of Karachi.
Backed by a potent media hype machine – which has sensationally promoted Lahore Qalandar as Lahore’s team and Karachi Kings as Karachi’s team – residents of both cities have been zealously sticking up for their hometowns, while pundits and celebrities alike have joined the fray in numbers, loudly declaiming the superiority of their city compared to the other.
A close look at the team sheets shows, Karachi has no horse in the race at all – no race winning horse at least.
Out of the 11 players in the Karachi Kings team, only one is from Sindh, and none from Karachi at all. In fact, four out of the eleven hail from Punjab, with their two star players – Captain Babar Azam and Muhammad Amir – both belonging to the “rival” city of Lahore.
Karachiites love to brag about Babar Azam, while there no arguing on his cricketing abilities and the fact he is the one of the best batsmen in the modern game, but it is very easy to miss the fact that he hails from Lahore, and played his domestic cricket for Lahore Blues.
Similarly, Muhammad Amir, the Super-Over hero from Saturday has roots in Punjab as well.
The only player in the Karachi Kings side that comes close to being from Karachi is Sharjeel Khan. The left-hander belongs from Hyderabad – the provincial rival of the port city – and is a lone flag-bearer carrier for Sindh.
When you look at Lahore, five players who will feature in today’s game will be from Punjab. The seam bowler, Dilbar Hussain and Faizan Raja come from Faisalabad. The veteran, Muhammad Hafeez is from Sargodha. Haris Rauf comes from Rawalpindi while Captain Sohail Akhtar is from Haripur.
It must put a damper on Karachi’s spirit, knowing that in the Karachi versus Lahore debate, Punjab – and by extension Lahore – takes the cake. Out of the 22 players in the final, nine are from Punjab, six are international players, four are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and one from Sindh.
Banter aside, this is why every Pakistani tunes in to watch the Lahore-Karachi contest. It is a high-stakes match that has everyone excited and tense at the same time. No wonder the previous Karachi-Lahore matches in the PSL have exceeded local TV ratings for bilateral matches between India and Pakistan, including ICC event match ups.
At 8pm on Tuesday, we are going to be treated to another chapter in famous Lahore-Karachi rivalry. For all the Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings fans across Pakistan, this is a good as it gets.
However, not everyone is onboard the “battle of the two cities” narrative.
Is it a smart move to turn a final into a fierce rivalry between two cities? Apparently, the PSL management does not see it this way; this is why Karachi Kings have players from Lahore or Quetta’s core team comes from Karachi. The tournament is a celebration of Pakistan’s diversity – even if some TV channels have been letting their regional affiliations get in the way.