The 2019 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has come to a successful end with Quetta Gladiators clinching their maiden crown in front of a packed house at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday.
The triumph on Sunday though, was not just for Quetta but also for Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Multan. It was a collective triumph for Pakistan cricket as a whole with the passionate fans in the country being treated to the kind of spectacle they have been largely deprived of over the course of the last decade.
It has been exactly 10 years since the horrific terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus took place at Lahore with the incident subsequently bringing international cricket to a standstill in Pakistan.
However, the past week of the PSL in Karachi has gone on to serve as a timely reminder of the resilient spirit of Pakistan cricket and its loyal fans. The National Stadium in Karachi witnessed as many as eight PSL games this time around and the reception from the cricket fans in the country has been overwhelming to say the least.
More than 250,000 spectators in Karachi have attended the eight games with the final affair on Sunday seeing fans packed to the rafters on Sunday. The reception has not just been huge from Pakistan fans but also the overseas stars of the PSL who have made their way to Karachi in abundant numbers.
Thank you Karachi for the love and support.— PakistanSuperLeague (@thePSLt20) March 18, 2019
Cricket fans in Karachi welcomed #HBLPSL with open arms and celebrated cricket in true spirit. This one dedicated to every cricket fan in the city because you proved that it indeed is #KhelDeewanoKa 💚 pic.twitter.com/TeGOUy0Cy5
The wounds of 2009 have meant that the bulk of the PSL has been held in the UAE since the tournament’s inception in 2016 but that picture has been changing gradually. In 2017, the final of the tournament was staged in Lahore amid heavy security in a major breakthrough for the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The 2018 edition was even bigger in that respect with as many as three matches including the final being held on Pakistan soil. Still, there was a long way to go then as far as the revival of international cricket in the country goes with several foreign players opting out of travelling for the Pakistan leg.
This year, however, the turnaround has been drastic. All six franchises have played at least one match on Pakistan soil and nearly all of them have done so with a near full-strength overseas contingent.
International stars such as Shane Watson, Colin Ingram and Kieron Pollard have expressed their awe of the reception they have received in Pakistan. There has been a collective outpouring of support and admiration by the foreign players in the PSL for the job done by Pakistan authorities in successfully hosting the Karachi leg.
It is safe to say that slowly, but positively, the perception of the international community is changing with regards to Pakistan and that is the greatest triumph of PSL 2019.
PCB chairman Ehsan Mani has expressed his hopes of hosting the 2020 edition completely in Pakistan and with the progress made by the board in the last three years, it does not seem like a far-fetched ambition.
It is safe to say that the 2019 edition of the PSL has been the biggest one yet and the huge shift in perception has not been the only positive aspect of the tournament. That PSL has produced several future stars of the Pakistan team with the likes of Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi being some of the notable examples.
The recently concluded edition has been no different with several youngsters like Mohammad Hasnain and Umer Khan catching the eye. While young Hasnain has already been handed a maiden Pakistan call-up for the upcoming series against Australia, Umer is on course to make his debut sooner rather than later.
The sparse attendances in the UAE-leg of the tournament remains the only blemish on what has been a resoundingly successful PSL but things should only get better with Pakistan seeing more matches on home soil.
PSL 2019 has been an excellent one all-round for Pakistan cricket and the 2020 promises to be even bigger. It is now up to the Pakistan cricket authorities to seize the momentum that has been generated and keep the bandwagon rolling.
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The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman was on hand to witness a packed crowd for the final at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday. The final between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi was the eighth match of the 2019 edition to be staged on Pakistan soil and the overwhelming response has given Mani renewed optimism for the next edition of the tournament.
“Next year we look forward to welcome you back with all the PSL matches in Pakistan,” Mani said in his address to the crowd on Sunday.
“Today for Pakistan, especially for Karachi, it’s a historic day. Since PSL is in Karachi, over 200,000 spectators witnessed the games at the stadium and millions witnessed on TV and digital platform.
PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani on #HBLPSL 2019: "The fans made this a truly Pakistan event. Cricket euphoria gripped the entire country as the fans got behind the tournament and made this an overwhelming success."— PakistanSuperLeague (@thePSLt20) March 18, 2019
“The biggest reward should be given to the people of Karachi, the way you people have supported and embraced PSL 4 here in your city. The love and support was extraordinary.”
The Karachi leg of PSL 2019 saw a remarkable turnout from the various overseas stars of the six franchises in stark contrast to last year where many foreign players had backed out from travelling to Pakistan due to security concerns.
This year, all six franchises went in with a near full-strength overseas contingent to Pakistan with the likes of Shane Watson, Kieron Pollard and Colin Ingram leading the way.
“Finally, I would like to say that all overseas players, officials and technical support teams, you have seen yourself the passion and love for cricket in Pakistan. Next year we look forward to welcome you back with all the PSL matches in Pakistan,” Mani said to conclude.
The bulk of the PSL is currently still being staged in the UAE. The inaugural edition in 2016 was held entirely in the UAE while the final in 2017 was held in Lahore amidst tight security. In 2018, three matches including the final and two Eliminators were held in Pakistan.
Quetta Gladiators team mentor Sir Vivian Richards was beaming after his side claimed the 2019 title in Karachi on Sunday, one that he has put down to the togetherness of the squad.
Having finished second in the league stage, Quetta beat Peshawar Zalmi in the Qualifier before defeating them once more in the final to be crowned champions. Richards claims their first title in a third final appearance is a product of hard work.
“This is what we work hard for. (We) must thank Nadeem Omar (Quetta Gladiators owner), the backroom staff, everyone who’s walked on the field. We were a family, and we sustained – that’s what it’s all about,” the 67-year-old said after the victory.
Richards hailed the experience in Pakistan, reserving special thanks for former cricketer and current Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“It’s great to come to Pakistan and feel loved. My good friend is now your Prime Minister, and we must thank him and his staff too.”
The West Indies batting legend highlighted the wealth of fast bowlers that has shone throughout the tournament.
“I’ve always said Pakistan have some good fast bowlers, it’s given the youngsters the chance to see the talent in their country.
“My love to Pakistan, I can feel the love. Thank you so much,” he said signing off.
Quetta all-rounder Dwayne Bravo applauded the efforts of his team as a whole while singling out captain Sarfraz Ahmed and youngster Mohammad Hasnain for praise.
“It was a great, great team effort. Special mention to captain Sarfraz, his bowling choices were different. In Hasnain, Pakistan have another young talent.
“PSL is the one title I had never won before, so happy to tick another one off my list.”
Peshawar owner Javed Afridi was disappointed with the result but was encouraged by the success of the Pakistan leg of the tournament.
“We’ve lost, but we are happy that the PSL came to Pakistan and gave the people of Karachi joy. (We) must give credit to my team for the way they’ve played this season, to reach the final. It’s been an amazing season.”
He also touched upon the possibility of the league being played entirely in Pakistan next season.
“The way PM Imran Khan said that PSL will be completely played in Pakistan next year, then we stakeholders need to work in the off-season to bring PSL matches to cities beyond Karachi and Lahore.”