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Fans get rare chance to watch top cricketers in Pakistan

Updated March 10, 2019

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KARACHI: Fans queue up to enter the National Stadium for watching the PSL match between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars on Saturday.—PPI
KARACHI: Fans queue up to enter the National Stadium for watching the PSL match between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars on Saturday.—PPI

KARACHI: Hundreds of cricket fans proudly displayed their tickets in Karachi as they walked to the National Stadium on Saturday, hours before Pakistan’s biggest city hosts the last leg of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) over the next nine days.

Shane Watson of Australia, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy of the West Indies will be the star attractions during the eight matches in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 competition.

Sammy has been an unofficial ambassador of the PSL around the world since the PSL began in 2016. Sammy, who leads Peshawar Zalmi, won the second edition of the PSL at Lahore in 2017 as the PCB gradually started organizing more and more league games at home.

New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi was to play for defending champions Islamabad United as they were to take on Lahore Qalandars at 7:00pm local time (1400 GMT). David Wiese of South Africa and Nepal’s 18-year-old leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane will be in action for Lahore.

“I am a big fan of Ronchi, haven’t ever seen him playing live and today my dream will come true,” said college student Mohammad Jabbar.

Watson will be playing in Pakistan 14 years after being a member of the Australia ‘A’ team in 2005, while Pollard will be playing in Pakistan for the first time.

“It’s been 14 years since I last visited Pakistan, a place with some of the most passionate fans in world cricket. Can’t wait to give it our best shot in winning the trophy,” Watson said in a video message tweeted by his team Quetta Gladiators.

Lahore, which organised the PSL final two years ago, was unable to host three of the remaining eight PSL matches after the recent political tensions between Pakistan and India forced a delay in the opening of the international air space in Lahore.

KARACHI: Islamabad United opener Luke Ronchi is brilliantly caught by Lahore Qalandars’ Haris Sohail during the PSL match at the National Stadium on Saturday.—Tahir Jamal/White Star
KARACHI: Islamabad United opener Luke Ronchi is brilliantly caught by Lahore Qalandars’ Haris Sohail during the PSL match at the National Stadium on Saturday.—Tahir Jamal/White Star

That led the Pakistan Cricket Board to contemplate rescheduling the remaining eight games in Pakistan after organising 26 PSL league matches in the UAE. Karachi, which hosted last year’s PSL final, was chosen as the PCB was intent on showing the cricketing world that it’s safe to again host international teams in Pakistan.

“The perception that foreigners have about the safety situation in Pakistan will change and they will be satisfied with the security arrangements,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said in Karachi.

“I am delighted to welcome the foreign players who have come here for the PSL and I am sure it will help us in bringing more international matches to the country.”

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Mani said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were the two teams which could tour Pakistan later this year if the PCB successfully organises PSL games in Pakistan.

It’s been 10 years since Pakistan hosted a fully-fledged bilateral cricketing series when the Sri Lanka cricket team bus was attacked by terrorists at Lahore in 2009.

Several key cricketing delegates from around the world will monitor security arrangements during the matches in Karachi.

Tight security will be provided for the six franchise teams, including more than 13,000 policemen and 2,500 paramilitary personnel in place from the team hotel to the stadium and in the surroundings of the National Stadium.

Hundreds of CCTV cameras have been installed in and around the stadium to monitor the movement of spectators, with identity cards having to be shown at entry points.

The main roads of the city have been decorated with lights and cardboard cutouts of players on the roadside. There are also giant billboards showing several foreign players representing the six teams named after Pakistan cities Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Islamabad United, Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators and Multan Sultans.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019