It’s 326 BC. The Internet hasn’t been invented. The first Test match is yet to be played. We’re talking about a time well before even the first Shahid Afridi retirement announcement. A time when incursions of any kind are dictated as much by the weather as any other tactical considerations; launching one in the winter – with defence against the cold virtually non-existent – is perhaps the most unforgivable blunder one could commit. Even 2,000 years later, two of the most famously disastrous military debacles – Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and Nazi Germany’s in the Soviet Union – will largely by done in by the extreme cold.
And yet, when Alexander was plotting a move against the Mallians in what is now widely considered to be Multan, he ruled out waiting till the summer months. He picked instead the miserably wet winter months to launch his campaign, catching the inhabitants by surprise. The citadel was besieged, and by February, the city had fallen, before winter was forced to begin its annual eight month retreat from South Punjab’s most prominent city.
2,348 years later, it perhaps becomes clearer why the ancient Greek emperor preferred to give Multan a wide berth once the summer sun had set in. An incursion of a very different kind is upon us, with the West Indies cricket team to play Pakistan’s in an ODI series carried over from last year and much has changed in one of the cities most redolent of the subcontinent’s uniquely storied history. It is now a bustling modern metropolis, a hub of commercial and economic activity with state-of-the-art infrastructure. Little has changed in one aspect, though; there remains virtually no defence against the oppressive heat.
The temperature on each of the days the three ODIs are due to be played will regularly exceed 45C, forcing the games to begin well into the evening, likely finishing after midnight. Multan was by no means Pakistan’s first choice as host at this time of year, with the slightly cooler Rawalpindi originally slated to host the games. But political uncertainty forced a change of venue, and with Lahore and Karachi’s surfaces being relaid, the Pakistan Cricket Board had little choice but to move a series being held at the hottest time of the year to the hottest city with an international cricket ground. However, this isn’t the first time a series is being held in uncomfortably hot weather, and with empty spaces in the calendar shrinking ever further, it certainly won’t be the last.—Agencies