IT was a final nobody expected would happen. It was a final most cricket diehards in the country had yearned for. It was a final some political bigwigs had eyed with scepticism. It was a final Quetta Gladiators feared. Stars or no stars, it was going to happen anyway given the determination of the people who mattered most.
Collectively, everyone should be applauded for a peaceful game of cricket after cynics had passed comments and tweets in the opposite direction during the lead-up to the title-decider.
Peshawar Zalmi may have emerged champions — and deserving ones too — of the second Pakistan Super League season. The advantage of not having to lose their major overseas stars became a crucial factor in Peshawar lifting the trophy in front of a vociferous Gaddafi Stadium crowd.
Talking of fans, the Peshawar ones outnumbered those rooting for Quetta as gauged by the sea of yellow shirts in the stands. That too inspired Darren Sammy and company and made feel at home.
Quetta were hard done by unavailability of their first-choice foreign imports and one really felt for them since the replacements of Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Rossouw, Tymal Mills and Luke Wright were not only looked rusty but were out of their depth. It was clear the circumstance got to them.
Barring West Indian paceman Rayad Emrit, the imports were disappointing from Quetta’s perspective and one of them, the 34-year-old Sean Ervine was playing his first T20 match — for English county side Hampshire — since July last year. Many would not know him for the reason he had given up playing international cricket in 2004 but he is an older brother of Craig Ervine, a current Zimbabwe batsman.
Morne van Wyk, a 37-year-old wicket-keeper/batsman who has been in and out of South Africa limited-overs teams, was a victim of jetlag having flow into Lahore from Port Elizabeth after playing for Dolphins against Warriors in a South Africa domestic one-day cup last Friday.
Bangladesh opener Anamul Haque, who has been out of the national side for a more than a year now, had come into the PSL final after having last appeared in this format in December.
With due respects to all of them, they were no match for Pietersen, Rossouw, Mills and even Wright. Quetta, thus, were unlucky in every sense of the word from the onset.
Moreover, Sarfraz Ahmed perhaps made the wrong call to bowl first at a venue where the last competitive fixture was staged way back in the middle of November — when Lahore Whites hosted Karachi Whites in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy — and hence, he had no clue about the pitch behaviour.
Unfortunately, the expectations of an exhilarating final, which many had anticipated, died a natural death in cricketing terms given the disparity of the personnel available for the finalists.
Coming to the gains and losses of the PSL finale, the biggest loser was the contest itself since it lacked the competitive edge. The biggest gainer on the night was Ahsan Raza. Despite committing a number of gaffes both as an on-field and TV monitoring official — one has actually lost count of them — the portly individual went home with a hefty $20,000 for being declared the best umpire.
Najam Sethi as PSL chairman promised a final in Lahore and delivered it an unqualified success. Therefore, he was also a big winner.
One cannot assess what the fans had gone through to see the match live at the venue. But it must have taken more than 10 hours just to watch a T20 match, starting from preparations at home and travelling through various shuttle points before reaching the destination and then going through same again.
Whatever, it was. Cricket was the ultimate winner.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2017