For four decades, from independence onwards, Pakistan cricket was divided neatly between its two great cities. Karachi provided the spine and Lahore everything else.
The Karachi cricketer was a gutsy street fighter who put a bigger price on his wicket than he would on his own head. From Hanif Mohammad to Javed Miandad, the Karachi batsman was the one around whom Pakistan built their batting. The city also provided the conventional spinner and the wicketkeeper - in between Lahoris Imtiaz Ahmed, who played his last Test in 1962, and Kamran Akmal, who became the first-choice wicketkeeper in 2004, Pakistan had a Karachi-born wicketkeeper in 234 of their 258 Test matches.
Lahore was different. The areas of expertise you find there would be those you find in mining towns, the bush, or whatever the equivalent for the outback is in your country. Lahore isn't a city; it's the biggest village humanity has ever known. And its cricketers represent that.
Fast bowling, elsewhere the domain of murky backwaters, was where Lahore shone. It was on the backs of Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood that Pakistan had a glorious first decade in international cricket. And the country's return to prominence in the late '70s and '80s was paved by Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and the invention of reverse swing, all products of Lahore. While Karachi, in the final quarter of the 20th century, produced spinners like Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed - masters of the known arts - Lahore's two great spinners were anything but conventional. Abdul Qadir and Saqlain Mushtaq revived dying arts and did it by relying on the ball that went the "wrong" way.
Even the captains from the two cities provide a contrast. Karachi produced cricketing geniuses Mushtaq Mohammad and Miandad. Lahore produced Kardar, Imran and Wasim - men who led with their chests puffed out and the apparent belief that being a leader of men was a far greater attribute to possess than any other for a captain.
"When it comes to choosing a nickname, Lahoris can't move beyond lions. The obsession with big cats is obvious in a city where lions, tigers and cheetahs are all used as compliments colloquially"
And so too with the batting. In the Pakistan team of the 1970s, for instance, Karachi was represented by the grit of Miandad and the insatiable appetite of Zaheer Abbas; Lahore was represented by unadulterated exuberance of Majid Khan and Wasim Raja. Of course, it would be unfair to paint everyone with the same brush. After all, the epitome of cricket as a chore, Mudassar Nazar, was a Lahori. And towards the end of the '90s the roles were somewhat reversed, when Lahore produced Yousuf Youhana and Karachi Shahid Afridi - a man who would have been called the Lion of Lahore hundreds of times if he had come from that city. Belonging to a city means growing up there, being part of its culture, not necessarily being born there. Afridi is a Karachi player, even though he was born in Khyber Agency.
And it is with this knowledge of history that we come to today.
With three Faysal Bank T20 titles in the last four years Lahore Lions have taken over from Sialkot Stallions as the dominant franchise in Pakistan's domestic game, despite the best efforts of the fairytale Faisalabadis. But the fear is that much like the Stallions in the 2012 Champions League, Lahore's entry into the big time has come a bit too late in the cycle. The current Lahore squad is a lesser team than its previous iterations, particularly the squad from two years ago, which included the likes of Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Yousuf.
And much like those stalwarts, the great Lahore traditions seems absent too. Aizaz Cheema and Wahab Riaz are extremely competent fast bowlers but no one will expect them to achieve the greatness their predecessors achieved. The spinners in the side are wholly conventional, with the exception of perhaps Adnan Rasool, one of only four non-Lahore-born players in the squad. The captain is also not from the city. Mohammad Hafeez is a lot of things but any attempt by him to provide the chest-out leadership his Lahori predecessors mastered could only be considered faux machismo.
Thus it is only in the batting that the Lahori tradition remains. Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad are spiritual heirs to Majid Khan and Wasim Raja - capable of brilliance and of frustrating in equal measure. Umar Akmal and Shehzad, in their insecure arrogance and erratic competence, are beacons of the Lahori launda culture (Urban Dictionary defines "launda" as "a word used to describe guys with 'devil-may-care' attitude. They do stuff which always gets eyebrows raised of old people or so called sane people.") They could, in fact, be considered the best representatives of the city's male culture as a whole since Wasim Akram.
But while the players may not represent Lahore, the moniker does. From kabaddi teams to junior hockey teams, when it comes to choosing a nickname it seems Lahoris can't look beyond lions. The obsession with big cats is obvious in a city where lions, tigers and cheetahs are all used as compliments colloquially, even if none of those species are local to the Punjab. It seems appropriate that of the two Lahoris fighting for the reins of the country in Islamabad, one became famous as the Lion of Lahore and the other has the tiger as his electoral symbol.
But I digress.
This Lahore Lions team may not be the greatest group of individuals the city has ever produced, but the players have not completely abandoned their traditions. To succeed in the Champions League they will need to revive those traditions. Wahab will have to bowl fast, Hafeez will have to make his presence felt, and the three youngsters will have to bat like laundas. It was always thus.