Pakistan Super League final to be held in Lahore
In a meeting held in Dubai on Monday between the Pakistan Super League (PSL) management and the owners of the team franchises, it was decided that the final for the tournament will be held in Lahore.
“It has been heart-warming to see the dedication of all owners to the cause of taking cricket back home and the realisation that this final will be the first step in opening the gates to international teams starting to make the journey again," he said while talking to the media after the meeting.
"We are all committed to this mission and wish to have a thoroughly entertaining final where it should happen — in Lahore,” he added.
Earlier, due to security concerns following the Feb 13 suicide bombing in Lahore which killed 13, there had been speculation that the PSL final may not be held in Pakistan after all.
Nonetheless, PSL Chairman Najam Sethi had promised cricket fans that the final would still be held in Lahore, in the absence of foreign players, if the fans did not want the venue to change following last week's bombing.
In a tweet following the meeting, Sethi said, "PSL management and franchises resolve to hold Final in Lahore. We invite PM, COAS and CMs to attend the match at Gadafi Stadium."
“The foreign players have refused to play the final in Lahore after Monday’s blast, but if the citizens of Pakistan want the PSL final to be held in Lahore [...] then the final will be held in Lahore," Sethi had said in his statement.
Javed Afridi, the owner of Peshawar Zalmi, said on Monday that they decided to remain on the same page with the PSL in the national spirit.
"Cricket is what unites the nation. Our decision on the final was made in the meeting with PSL Chairman Najam Sethi."
On Sunday, star player Shahid Afridi had also urged the authorities that PSL's season two final be held in Pakistan.
“The final, as announced, should be held in Pakistan, with or without international players,” he had said in a post-match press conference.
“This is about respect, we can play with our local players, but I request overseas players who have supported PSL to also come to Pakistan and continue their support,” he had added.
“Pakistan Cricket Board should look at the situation, and if things are not working out [in Lahore], we have options,” he said. “We have the Pindi stadium, we have a stadium in Karachi. I hope the cricket board will take a good decision.”
PSL will give franchisees the option to draft new players in case contracted international stars opt out of the March 5 final at Lahore due to security reasons.
“On Feb 22, we will do a new draft... we will put a formula in front of all the franchises and foreign players to let us know who will play the final in Lahore and who will not come,” Sethi had said earlier.
International stars, including West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, Shane Watson of Australia and England's Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan, are among 30 foreign players contracted to the five teams in the PSL Twenty20 tournament.
Sethi said he had also been in contact with several foreign players who indicated they would still be willing to play the final in Lahore.
“We are in touch with other foreign players so that we could replace those (contracted international) players who are not willing to play in Lahore.”
Quetta Gladiators batsman Kevin Pietersen, who hails from England, had earlier said he had yet to decide whether to come to Pakistan or not if the PSL final is played in Lahore.
“I haven’t decided to go or not as yet, I will take the decision regarding coming to Pakistan if my team reaches the final,” said Pietersen.
Team owners respond
Salman Iqbal, the owner of Karachi Kings, said he is happy that the PSL final will be held in Lahore.
It'd be a cherry on top if his team could participate in the upcoming historic final, Iqbal told DawnNews.
The Karachi Kings owner said that he will speak to the players in the team. "I am sure it will be a secure and successful event," he added.
He further requested the Pakistani prime minister and army chief to attend the final so as to "grace the occasion" and also ensure the security is on high-alert.
Lahore Qalandars Chief Operating Officer Sameen Rana said that the statement from the army chief, where he promised support for the PSL final being held in Lahore, played an important role in forming the decision.
Talking to DawnNews, Rana said that he was at the meeting with Sethi and that the decision was taken for the Pakistani cricket fans.
He further said that franchise owners will speak to the players and see who is ready to play the final in Lahore. "Only then will we decide about replacements," Rana added.
Welcoming the decision, owner of Peshawar Zalmi Javed Afridi said that it is "in national spirit" to be on the same page.
He said that sports, especially cricket, is an opportunity to unite the people of Pakistan. "It will be a great event for the entire nation," Afridi added.