KARACHI: It seems the upcoming T20 series between Pakistan and the West Indies won’t attract the overwhelming attention drawn by the historic PSL finale at the National Stadium last Sunday.

Four days after Islamabad United regained their title by dethroning last year’s champions Peshawar Zalmi, the hangover hasn’t gone away as gauged by a casual visit to the National Stadium on Thursday.

The unprecedented stringent security measures witnessed at the weekend are all but gone with the Rangers personnel still occupying the stadium although their numbers are fewer compared to what had been the case when scores of armed men had spread out at strategic points to maintain peace at all costs.

The remnants of Pakistan Super League were glaringly dominant both inside and outside the stadium. The route from the main gates to the imposing building still carry billboards and placards dedicated to the PSL teams and their official partners.

The playing arena, though, was being cleared of the commercial hoardings which were tastefully decorated all round the field and at the enclosures for the PSL final. But it was done at a leisurely pace after the arrival of a large contingent from the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) from Lahore.

It was only on Thursday evening that the PCB revealed through its customary media release that a deal had been struck with the sponsors for the three-match Twenty20 International which starts from Sunday here in Karachi, with back-to-back matches to be played until Tuesday night.

But while the title-sponsor and co-sponsors were made known, there is no indication forthcoming from any quarters or sources as to which West Indies squad would travel to Karachi to face the top-ranked and already-announced Pakistan side, led by Sarfraz Ahmed.

Thus far, there have been sketchy details provided by the Cricket West Indies (CWI) regarding the upcoming fixtures.

The most notable disclosure made by the CWI was that it is offering all of their cricketers who agree to tour Pakistan an additional ‘bonus’ of US$25,000 per player as an incentive.

This amount will be made from the payment by the PCB to the CWI because the T20 series falls outside the Future Tour Programme (FTP) — which is a standard modus operandi given to a touring team by the host board for a non-FTP series.

The CWI was slated to pick a 13-member squad for the T20 series upon the conclusion of the World Cup qualifier event in Zimbabwe. But already four days had lapsed since Afghanistan defeated West Indies in the final of the 50-over competition at the Harare Sports Club and there is no sign of how many of the one-day team members will be making the short trip to Karachi.

It is also highly unlikely that the West Indies would be sending their strongest squad because several big names such as Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine — all of whom were in action in the recent PSL — won’t be considered by the Courtney Browne-led selection panel for a variety of reasons. A certainty in this category of non-starters is Darren Sammy, the two-time ICC World Twenty20-title winning skipper who is hugely popular in Pakistan as the captain of Peshawar Zalmi.

Thus far, the fans — who started buying the tickets for the matches from Thursday — are completely unaware of the fact whether they would be watching live the big-hitting Chris Gayle or the reliable Marlon Samuels or some other virtually unknown faces.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2018

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