#360view: PSL success marks seminal moment in Pakistan

Barnaby Read 22:09 23/02/2016
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    As the first edition of the Pakistan Super League came to a close in Dubai on Tuesday night, a seminal moment in Pakistan cricket unfolded.

    Possibly in history but definitely in recent memory, nothing as important or crucial has been introduced to the country’s cricketing conscious.

    Since the international game has been absent from the country, Pakistan has been searching for positives.

    A cricketing history too often remembered for spot fixing, illegal bowling actions and now drug bans finally has something to brag about, and it may just open the door for international cricket to eventually return to the stadiums of Lahore and Karachi.

    Queues around the block in Sharjah and a couple of sell-outs in Dubai prove that the PSL could have a viable future in the UAE but it is beyond the borders of the emirates that impact of real substance has been made.

    Unlike its older siblings of franchise cricket that have proven so successful, packed international schedules have meant current international stars have not been the main attractions.

    Instead, Pakistan’s national and domestic players have been pushed to the fore and been the main attractions.

    Shahid Afridi never fails to entice nationalistic support, while the intrigue around Mohammad Amir’s presence and the rise of the likes of Sharjeel Khan and Bismillah Khan and the return of Mohammad Sami have been exciting scenes to watch unfold.

    It has well and truly breathed new life into Pakistani cricket, just as the Pakistan Cricket Board had hoped.

    They have created a product for Pakistanis to be proud of, and the PCB should be applauded for this.

    Since $93m was plundered into buying the five franchises, the PSL has delivered a viable financial model that the country desperately needed.

    And while the matches have been an intermittent hit on the ground in the UAE, it has been an undoubted success in Pakistan.

    This is just what the PCB had hoped for while the tournament continued its country’s exile from its own shores, television advertising money and sponsorship the prime driver for its pursuit of profitability and desire to inject more money into the game in Pakistan.

    Television viewing figures have been higher than the 2015 Cricket World Cup and, at its peak, 55% percent of the country’s TV audience has tuned into the action.

    According to data obtained by BizAsia, the opening game of the tournament between Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United peaked at 66,200 viewers on Prime TV, a station that averaged just 2,000 viewers at the same time slot the week prior.

    Importantly, every time they turned on the box, what they saw was a tournament filled with enthralling matches and their countrymen largely playing the starring roles.

    It is this that will secure the PSL’s cricketing legacy back home, with impressionable youngsters given new heroes from their own country to look up to.

    There is all of a sudden far more superstars to identify with than the thirteen or so that flit between Test, ODI and T20I duty, and have done so for the best part of the last decade.

    Pakistan’s bright young tournament has delivered franchises, players and even a media that reflects its ambition.

    It has been a concerted effort from all involved, and while the PCB should rightly take the majority of the plaudits, those mentioned above should also take a bow.

    A packed – an incredibly loud – press centre has followed the tournament from Dubai to Shrajah and back with both traditional and new media at the forefront of widespread coverage.

    That has served the tournament and its followers incredibly well, capturing the tone of the PSL perfectly.

    It has all resulted in the PSL creating a community and culture of its own, rooted in a Pakistani identity despite being hosted in the UAE.

    With such a united front with pulling in the same direction, that final hurdle has finally been given tangible hope of being cleared.

    It’s taken seven years, but if the PCB can build on the success of the PSL it will all be worth it.