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KARACHI: No foreign cricketer or their national board has expressed any security concern over playing the final of the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) here at the National Stadium later this month, Dawn has reliably learnt.

“[So far] no foreign cricketer featuring in the PSL, their national cricket board or official has conveyed any kind of reservation, including security-related, over playing the final in Karachi,” revealed a source on Monday amid sporadic rumours on possible shifting of the high-profile match scheduled to be staged under lights at the historic venue of National Stadium on March 25 due to security-related issues.

“There are a number of foreign players in each of the six PSL franchise teams who have demonstrated impressive skills during the league games in the UAE, and nothing regarding security [for the final in Karachi] has been discussed by these players or their officials,” added the source.

National Stadium Karachi (NSK) last month received an encouraging response, for holding the PSL final, from Inter­national Cricket Council’s foreign security consultant Reg Dickason who witnessed a full-dress security-related rehearsal by around 8,000 members of law-enforcement agencies at the venue.

Whether or not the rumour-mongering had any substance, the Pakistan Cricket Board responded to it — swiftly and seriously — when earlier on Monday PCB chairman Najam Sethi smothered all such speculation in clear terms.

“My response will not change due to persistent questioning. The PSL final will be held in Karachi and if it is not held in Karachi then it would not be held anywhere else,” Sethi told reporters during his visit to the National Stadium.

The National Stadium these days is undergoing a massive facelift ahead of the PSL final that is expected to generate a huge buzz across the metropolis which would be holding its first high-profile match involving foreign and top-tier Pakistan cricketers after around nine years. NSK last staged an international fixture back in 2009 when Sri Lanka played a Test match before the series was left incomplete after the horrific terror attack on the visiting team during the second Test in Lahore.

The brazen attack halted international cricket contests in Pakistan until 2015 when Zimbabwe visited the country for a short limited-overs series in Lahore. International cricket action gradually started returning to Pakistan last year when Lahore hosted the PSL final in March and a star-studded World XI side for a three-match T20 series in September.

The renovation work, it seems, is not progressing as scheduled and might not reach completion on time. However, Sethi on several occasions reiterated that the final will take place in Karachi, adding the work at the National Stadium would be completed maximum by March 15. The tickets for the final go on sale the same day.

Sethi, who during Monday’s visit to NSK was given a briefing by the National Logistic Cell officials on the renovation work being carried out by the NLC, expressed his satisfaction at the work.

“Most of the work is complete. Small things which are in the testing phase are 95 per cent done. I will return [to NSK] on March 15 and [by then] 100 per cent of targeted work will be complete,” the PCB chief told reporters while thanking the Sindh government for its cooperation in making and facilitating arrangements for the March 25 show.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2018

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