Come Thursday, the third edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will get underway in all its glory at the Dubai International Stadium as Peshawar Zalmi take on Multan Sultans in the tournament opener.
Pakistan’s premier T20 competition has come a long way since its maiden edition in 2016 where it started with five franchises in tow. With international cricket still a rarity in the country following the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009, it was Pakistan’s adopted home, the UAE, which played host to the inaugural edition.
The brainchild of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Najam Sethi, the PSL’s goals were ambitious to say the least. Meant to be Pakistan’s answer to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the PSL was supposed to become the cash-cow of the governing body while also churning out future stars for the national team.
While the results of the former are mixed and ambiguous to say the least, there is no denying that the latter aspect has largely paid off. It is no coincidence that there has been an upturn in Pakistan’s limited-overs performance since the advent of the PSL.
That Sarfraz Ahmed’s men captured the adulation of the cricketing world with their fairytale triumph at the ICC Champions Trophy in England last year and are currently the No1 ranked team in T20Is is in some part, down to having a competition of the ilk of the PSL.
On the financial aspect, the maiden season was an all-round success with a profit of US$2.6 million being announced. The profits this time around are estimated to be less, approximately $1m, though it remains unconfirmed. That slow down, can largely be attributed to the finals of the second season being held in Lahore.
The PSL was seen as a vehicle to rekindle international cricket in the country and with international stars like Darren Sammy flying in for the finals, it was a start. That paved the way somewhat for the ICC World XI which toured Pakistan later in the year followed by Sri Lanka for a lone T20I. Soon, the West Indies will tour for a three-match T20I series.
This year, the PSL will see a total of three matches being held on home soil with Lahore hosting both semi-finals and Karachi the summit clash which is another improvement in that regard.
So there remains no doubt that the impact of the PSL has been far reaching and will only continue to grow. Now if only they could raise the attendances figures in the UAE, that would be swell.
With matches held at Dubai International Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium, tickets are still available for many of the matches until the tournament moves to Karachi and Lahore for the latter stages from March 20.
The 2018 edition is set to be the biggest yet with six teams in contention following the addition of Multan Sultans. The team, who will be mentored by Wasim Akram, will join Lahore Qalanders, Karachi Kings, Quetta Gladiators, Islamabad United and defending champions Peshawar Zalmi.
As well as Pakistan’s national players, there will be a number of international stars including Andre Russell and Luke Ronchi (Islamabad United), Ravi Bopara and Morgan (Karachi Kings), Darren Sammy and Chris Jordan (Peshawar Zalmi), Kevin Pietersen and Shane Watson (Quetta Gladiators).
For Lahore Qalanders, New Zealand legend McCullum will be among the players while Kieron Pollard will feature on Multan Sultans.
Dubai will host 12 matches from Thursday until March 18 while there will be 13 at Sharjah starting from February 28 to March 4 and then March 13 to 16.
For Sharjah Cricket Stadium officials, they are looking forward to staging the PSL games again and promises fans it will be an experience to remember.
“Ever since that historic match between the Gavaskar XI and the Miandad XI in 1981 our aim has been to invite the best of the world to enjoy the magic that makes Sharjah such an epic venue for cricket,” said Waleed Bukhatir, vice-chairman of Sharjah Cricket Club. “Once again, we have 13 games of what I believe will all be too close to call.”
Sharjah Cricket Club general manager Mazhar Khan added: “We want the fans to get their money’s worth and ensure that every game is an experience. That is what Sharjah does; it gives cricket that extra boost. And with the top players taking part, the lovers of cricket are in for a great treat.”
What: Pakistan Super League
Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium and Dubai International Stadium
When: Thursday until March 18
Contact: For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.q-tickets.com/
With international cricket still a rarity on Pakistan soil following the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, the PSL has so far been held primarily in the UAE with last season’s finals being played at Lahore.
The PCB confirmed last week that they were mulling over Malaysia as an alternate home venue to the UAE in the future.
For the upcoming edition of the PSL, Lahore has been earmarked to host the two semi-finals while Karachi has been designated to hold the final.
Sethi hopes to host the next edition in its entirety in Pakistan. Speaking to Sportstar on Saturday, he said,: “Hopefully, we can shift the PSL fully to Pakistan next year. That will pave the way for a full series in Pakistan by a top team.”
The PCB chairman also confirmed that the PSL will be followed by a three-match T20I series against the West Indies in Lahore, starting on March 29.
The PSL is slated to start on February 22 with the first match at Dubai while the tournament will conclude with the final on March 25 at Karachi.