CRICKET and PSL must rank high among metaphors for the Pakistani spirit. The huge success of the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League provides an insight into an exciting future for a country that has had more than its fair share of troubles in recent years. As far as symbolism goes, it is apt that the fourth PSL championship has been clinched by the Quetta Gladiators — a less fancied side at the launch of the competition four years ago, which has since surprised everyone with the grace and poise it has shown. The Gladiators, who played some of the most consistent cricket in the four PSL editions, set the standard, with foreign professionals complementing domestic talent. They beat Peshawar Zalmi in the final in front of a full house at Karachi’s National Stadium in an example of comprehensive popular Pakistani backing for displays involving international participation. Peshawar might have lost it at the stage where it was picking the team for the big game, but this one-time champion has achieved much during the PSL’s history and is going to be the team to try and beat during the next editions of the event.
Due tributes have been paid to Karachi and the country as a whole for being so actively involved in restoring what this cricket-loving nation has so desperately craved. Last year, only a few games and the final were played in the country in view of foreign cricketers’ reluctance to travel to Pakistan because of their security perceptions. Most matches were played in the UAE, which graciously played host on Pakistan’s behalf. The share of fixtures held in Pakistan, specifically Karachi, was increased this time around. And at the very top level, a promise has been made that, from next year, the entire PSL contest will be staged in the country. Greater meaning has been added to the pledge by a major architect of the cricketing renaissance here, with the army spokesman vowing to organise PSL games in areas most severely hit by terrorism.
Again, what is encouraging is that the International Cricket Council has pointed out how far the successful holding of PSL can go towards convincing the world that there is nothing extraordinary about a batch of cricketers from abroad playing in Pakistan. It is a future to look forward to, not just by the sport’s fans, but by everyone who understands how crucial such activity is in the life of a normal, progressive society. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before all famous names — in fact, national teams — agree to come here. The credit goes to those who have worked towards this goal at the Pakistan Cricket Board and in other government departments, and above all, to those foreign players who were in the vanguard of the force that has performed the rescue act.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2019