Yes, we miss Gaddafi Stadium at its best © Getty Images
Yes, we miss Gaddafi Stadium at its best © Getty Images

March 3, 2009 had happened at Lahore. May 22, 2015 had to be Lahore as well. Pakistani cricket fans have waited six years for this to happen. In the interim period, Pakistan had won a World T20; have gone through the gloom of spot-fixing; and after a brief stint in England, have made UAE their base. They have beaten Australia and England in UAE, and more. READ: When cricket’s 9/11 sounded the death knell for the future of the sport in Pakistan

Unfortunately, things have not been the same. The world of cricket has been averse to touring Pakistan. You cannot blame them. Fed mostly by news channels, they were probably justified to be scared of the events. ICC had pulled out World Cup 2011 matches from Pakistan. The country had been shunned as an international venue for 2,271 days by ICC. READ: Shahid Afridi hopes Zimbabwe’s visit spurs more teams to visit Pakistan

True, things have not been the most peaceful. But then, Kevin Pietersen and his men had come back to play in India in 2008-09. The Chennai Test had started a mere 15 days after the 26/11 massacre. India were given a chance. Pakistan were not. READ: Pakistan may have to maintain war-footing for future tournaments

Once again, the countries can hardly be blamed. The onus was not on them to tour Pakistan. They were perfectly content in hosting Pakistan or playing them in the relatively peaceful locations of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Sharjah. Pakistan has support in UAE, but it was not the same as playing at home. READ: “ICC does have a bias against Pakistan”

In fact, nothing is the same as playing at home. Ask Saeed Ajmal, who became the third bowler (after Clarrie Grimmett and Dilip Doshi) to make his Test debut after 30 and pick up a hundred Test wickets. In fact, he was close to 32 when he played his first Test, and his wickets tally reads 178. Ajmal is yet to play a Test at home. It is probable, even possible, that he never will. READ: Zimbabwe get ready for cricket in Pakistan amidst tight scrutiny

Ask the fans as well. Some may afford to take the trip to another country to watch Pakistan play. Not all. These are men who have lived in a country torn by violence with the hope of witnessing their heroes pull off another moment of triumph — in squash, hockey, and most significantly, cricket.  Interview — Umar Akmal: I’ve never had disciplinary issues with anyone

They often rise from tape-ball cricket, bowling faster and faster in their salwar-kameez, with the single-minded dream of opening bowling for Pakistan. Some have lived up to their dreams. Some have not. But the spirit never died out.

Even the New Zealand tour could not dampen them. The tour, originally scheduled for 2001, was called off following 9/11; when it eventually happened in 2002, New Zealand had to call their tour off midway following the blasts at Karachi; and Pakistan had to play “home” Tests at Colombo and Sharjah.

But cricket returned to Pakistan. It had to.

Then Lahore happened, for there happens to be a group of people who prefer violence to the noblest sport invented by mankind. Cricket in Pakistan took a setback for six years.

People who lived for the sport were deprived of the opportunity to watch their heroes live for no fault of their own.

But cricket returns to Pakistan again, for it has to.

Zimbabwe rose to the occasion. “We experienced isolation, won’t let it happen to Pakistan,” said Zimbabwe manager Christian Chiketa in a press conference. They know, for Zimbabwe had encountered a situation worse than Pakistan’s. No country, after all, came forward to play “home” to them.

International cricket resumes today in Pakistan. It will coincide with the second qualifier of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015 (and, in case anyone cares, the first Test between England and New Zealand). The second match will qualify with the final. With Brendan Taylor announcing retirement, Zimbabwe will not be the same team. Of course, an IPL qualifier, given the stars and glitz, will attract more eyeballs than the Pakistan-Zimbabwe encounters.

Take a moment away to think about this: Zimbabwe have shown the courage no other side has in recent past; they are the first team to tour Pakistan in over six years; and though there will be a high-profile contest taking place, you will witness cricket history unfold at Lahore. Remember, IPL is an annual event; international cricket will return to Pakistan after six years.

It may not be a bad idea to switch to Pakistan vs Zimbabwe for once. At least keep the remote control in hand and get used to Ctrl + Tab on the browser. Follow both (three, ideally) matches simultaneously if you need to follow IPL. But do keep an eye on the proceedings.

Missing out on history, you see, is not a cool idea.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)