There is no limit to ambition and the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is one such project that has no limitations. Set to be played in Qatar in February 2016, the event promises to be the biggest, the most exciting and by far the most entertaining tournament in the history of Pakistan cricket.
Biggest, because the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is trying to rope in the biggest names in T20 cricket; most exciting since it will feature local talent alongside international names and most entertaining because the entertainment stars on this side of the Wagah will support different teams. Interesting isn’t it?
Why the hype about PSL?
The PSL is not just about cricket. It is something bigger than the game especially in Pakistan where the standard of local T20 cricket is much lower than the rest of the world. Players drop more catches than they actually hold on to; patience doesn’t seem to be a virtue of these cricketers and the fitness standards are below par.
The much awaited Pakistan Super League is set to take cricket in this country to the next level
PSL plans to change all that as the involvement of foreign cricketers will make it far more interesting; not only will the bar be raised on the playing standards but sharing dressing rooms with cricketers who have won matches for their country will give the youngsters a chance to learn from the masters.
Furthermore, the financial stability the league will bring with it is likely to raise the living standards of cricketers and their happiness will ensure that Pakistan cricket is in good hands.
And finally, the league will showcase Pakistan as a peace-loving country, where cricket is worshipped as much as it is in India.
The soft image of the country will show the world that there is nothing wrong with Pakistan and although the first edition will be played in Qatar, a successful PSL might propel cricket back to Pakistan. And yes, Pakistanis will finally have something to be proud of as well.
Is PSL superior to IPL?
The Pakistani version will have fewer teams because if anything can be learnt from IPL, it is that too much of something is never good. IPL has always had more than eight teams and by the time the tournament is about to end, most people tend to forget as to what happened a month back in the initial matches.
Thankfully, PSL will only have five teams — Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore — and players would be selected on the basis of their talent, not on the basis of their residence.
Unlike IPL, PSL will comprise of just 24 matches, with each team playing the other twice. Therefore, the event will end in less than a month, making it simple, yet effective.
However, many fans of the game will be disappointed to know that a play-off will decide which team gets to play the final instead of the age-old semi-final format. The losing side of the first play-off will still have a go at a place in the final, thanks to the IPL-inspired format.
Pakistan’s best versus the rest
As for the players, well the world’s best are ready to visit Qatar and be part of history from a Pakistani perspective. So far, 100 international cricketers have agreed to be part of PSL and that includes current as well as recently-retired cricketers from England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and even Ireland.
Just imagine Lasith Malinga bowling for Karachi Knights and Misbahul Haq representing Lahore Leopards; and the world record holder for fastest Test century blasting the Sri Lankan quickie for his trademark huge six — straight over the bowler’s head! What a sight would that be …
West Indian quartet — Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell — are considered the best players of T20 cricket in the world, and guess what … they all have agreed to be a part of PSL.
Sri Lanka’s ODI captain Angelo Matthews and T20 skipper Lasith Malinga will also be a part of the extravaganza which will see them in action against Pakistan’s best — Boom Boom Shahid Afridi, Misbahul Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and even Wahab Riaz.
No auction, no problem
The players will not go under the hammer in PSL — in fact, the PCB will follow the format of the Caribbean Premier League in this regard. There are five categories for the players interested in being part of PSL — Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver and Emerging.
There will be no discrimination between Pakistani and foreign players and the top local players will be placed at par with international stars. Each team will have a minimum of 12 local and four foreign players and they will all be selected through a ballot.
As for the coaches, at least a dozen international coaches — some with World Cup triumph on their resume — are willing to transfer their experience to youngsters in Pakistan and abroad.
Their involvement will also help the Pakistani coaches who haven’t worked at the international level; same will be the case with local umpires and match referees who will be all ready to grasp any kind of experience that comes their way through international match officials.
Show me the money!
So we all know that there are five categories in which the players will be placed. What we don’t know is that each team will have a salary spending cap of roughly $1 million. To make the league more interesting and different from the local T20 tournaments PCB organises annually, the board has hired foreign consultants for the project; the ones behind the Big Bash League of Australia.
These professionals will bring loads of experience to Pakistan and with their help, PSL is sure to become a successful brand. With such people on board, PCB is confident that the franchises will be bought in no time.
After all, they will get a share of the central pool that consists of broadcast rights, sponsorship rights, apparel rights and ticket sales. The franchises will be free to sell its own sponsorship rightsand for that, there is no limit and boundary as to how they make money.
Entertainment all the way
Oh I forgot about the most entertaining part of PSL — the celebrities.
Just imagine the giants of Pakistani films, TV industry, as well as former cricketers endorsing franchises in PSL … wouldn’t that be a sight to die for? What if Adnan Siddiqui decides to support the team featuring his favourite cricketer; Humaima Malik becomes the owner of one of the franchises and Moammer Rana decides to follow his family business (of being associated with cricket).
Cool, if you think about it! Former captains Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja are already onboard as brand ambassadors and more former cricketers might join them soon. It will be great to see Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan and Mushtaq Mohammad return to cricket as icons … with their combined experience; PSL will surely hit the rival leagues for a six.
Mark your calendars
Pakistan Super League will be played between February 4 and 24 next year in Doha, Qatar; so mark those dates on your calendars now. It will give the cricket enthusiasts in Pakistan a chance to witness the world’s best battle it out against each other; not only will that give the local cricketers a chance to learn from the best, it will also raise the bar for them the next time they play the game at the domestic level.
It’s a win-win situation for Pakistan, I tell you!
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 20th, 2015