DUBAI: Defending champions Islamabad United will take on Lahore Qalandars to begin season 4 of the HBL Pakistan Super League at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium here on Thursday night after a glittering opening ceremony.
Arguably, the latest edition will be biggest as it will have the added attraction of former South Africa captain A.B. de Villiers, arguably one of the most destructive batsmen of the modern generation, marking his PSL debut.
Not only de Villiers’ presence will add charm to the tournament, his sentiments on playing a part in revival of international cricket in Pakistan will give a tremendous boost to the efforts of the PCB in convincing teams and international players to return to the country.
“I am delighted to confirm that I will represent Lahore Qalandars in front of our home crowds on March 9 and 10 during the this PSL,” de Villiers said recently. “I am fully aware that cricket is like a second religion in Pakistan. I still remember the support and appreciation we received in 2007 [when South Africa toured Pakistan].
“Furthermore, I feel I have a role to play in helping international cricket return to Pakistan. These have been some of the motivating factors for me to return to Lahore.
“I sympathize with the people of Pakistan because they have been cricket-starved for no fault of theirs, but I am optimistic that the days are not too far when international cricket will return to Pakistan and the stadia will once again be packed with crowds.”
People have started to count the days when they could see one of the cleanest hitters in the game in their backyard. De Villiers playing in Pakistan will be one of the many charms of PSL 4 and Lahore’s matches at home will be on an astronomical demand.
But, de Villiers is not the only start attraction of the tournament. There are Shane Watson, Andre Russell, Luke Ronchi, Dwayne Bravo, Rilee Rossouw, Fawad Ahmed, Daren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Liam Dawson, Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan, Dan Christian, Sikander Raza, Anton Devcich, Brendon Taylor, Samit Patel and host of other international names lined up to entertain the crowds during the Feb 14-March 17 T20 extravaganza.
Moreover, some most exciting players on the Twenty20 horizons are also on show.
Nepal spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, Australia’s Aaron Summers and exciting performers from England’s T20 Blast, Laurie Evans, Philip Salt and Liam Livingstone will also add to the PSL charms. Evans was the top run-getter in the T20 Blast while Summers hit 150kph speed in Australian summer matches and was part of Hobart Hurricane in this season’s Big Bash.
Pakistan’s own players have a point to prove in this World Cup year with head coach head coach Mickey Arthur announcing that good performances in the PSL can get a player a ticket to the World Cup.
So, discards such as Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz should pull up their socks and give their best in the coming competition to force the selectors to consider their credentials for the 50-over mega event in England and Wales.
On the other hand, youngsters like hard-hitting opener Rizwan Hussain, Sameen Gul, Hassaan Khan, Amad Butt et al, have the chance of their lives to fulfill their dreams of playing for Pakistan through some good performances over the next four weeks.
The PSL is one platform which has been the harbinger for the return of international cricket to Pakistan. The second edition in 2017 saw the final played in Lahore, while last year three matches were held, including the final. This year eight matches will be staged in the country — five in Karachi, including March 17 final, and three in Lahore.
It’s is impossible to guess who will be champions this time because T20 cricket is highly unpredictable. A good performance with the bat, a burst of wickets or a good fielding — just like everyone saw in the recent T20 International when South Africa’ David Miller held four catches and made two run-outs to seal victory over Pakistan.
All six franchises are well balanced, highly motivated and best prepared to take the crystal trophy which is a representation of the Pakistani flag in all its sparkling beauty, with crystals one by one rising up as a dazzling green beam and shows off the majestic Shooting Star at the pinnacle.
From the most vibrant franchise Lahore Qalandars to the newest team Multan Sultans to the two-time champions Islamabad United and 2017 winners Peshawar Zalmi, to the most enthusiastic Karachi Kings to the unassuming twice runners-up Quetta Gladiators, every team promises tooth-to-nail fight for the honours.
Remember one-run wins — twice between Quetta and Peshawar in 2016 and 2017 — and two Super Over finishes — both involving Lahore in 2018 — left the spectators on the edges of their seats.
Fixtures (all times PST)
Feb 14: Islamabad United vs Lahore Qalandars (Dubai, N), 11:00pm.
Feb 15: Karachi Kings vs Multan Sultans (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 15: Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 16: Islamabad United vs Multan Sultan (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 16: Karachi Kings vs Lahore Qalandars (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 17: Islamabad United vs Quetta Gladiators (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 17: Lahore Qalandars vs Peshawar Zalmi (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 18: Rest Day.
Feb 19: Rest Day.
Feb 20: Quetta Gladiators vs Multan Sultans (Sharjah, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 21: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi (Sharjah, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 22: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans (Sharjah, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 22: Peshawar Zalmi vs Islamabad United (Sharjah, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 23: Quetta Gladiators vs Lahore Qalandars (Sharjah, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 23: Karachi Kings vs Islamabad United (Sharjah, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 24: Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans (Sharjah, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 24: Quetta Gladiators vs Karachi Kings (Sharjah, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 25: Rest Day.
Feb 26: Multan Sultans vs Islamabad United (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 27: Lahore Qalandars vs Quetta Gladiators (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 27: Karachi Kings vs Islamabad United (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
Feb 28: Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
Feb 28: Lahore Qalandars vs Karachi Kings (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
March 1: Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi (Dubai, D/N), 4:30pm.
March 1: Quetta Gladiators vs Multan Sultans (Dubai, N), 9:00pm.
March 2: Rest Day.
March 3: Rest Day.
March 4: Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators (Abu Dhabi, D/N), 4:30pm.
March 4: Multan Sultans vs Karachi Kings (Abu Dhabi, N), 9:00pm.
March 5: Peshawar Zalmi vs Lahore Qalandars (Abu Dhabi, D/N), 4:30pm.
March 5: Quetta Gladiators vs Islamabad United (Abu Dhabi, N), 9:00pm.
March 6: Rest Day.
March 7: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi (Karachi, N), 9:00pm.
March 8: Rest Day.
March 9: Lahore Qalandars vs Islamabad United (Lahore, N), 9:00pm.
March 10: Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators (Karachi, D/N), 4:30pm.
March 10: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans (Lahore, N), 9:00pm.
March 11: Rest Day.
March 12: Eliminator 1 (Lahore, N), 9:00pm.
March 13: Qualifier (Karachi, N), 9:00pm.
March 14: Rest Day.
March 15: Eliminator 2 (Karachi, N), 9:00pm.
March 16: Rest Day.
March 17: Grand Final (Karachi, N), 9:00pm.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2019