ALREADY excitement levels are soaring as the Pakistan Super League cricket carnival prepares to launch its fifth season a month from now.
Six star-studded teams — the Multan Sultans, Karachi Kings, Islamabad United, Lahore Qalandars, Quetta Gladiators and the Peshawar Zalmi — will be competing for supremacy, with the bumper winner’s purse in excess of a quarter of a million dollars.
The icing on the cake this time round, however, is that the entire PSL will be staged in Pakistan for the first time ever since the event’s inception in 2016.
The league will see all its 34 matches played in four Pakistani cities including Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan, culminating in a grand finale in Lahore on March 22.
The relocation move from the UAE, for which the PCB and the government deserve much credit, will hopefully further enhance Pakistan’s status as a safe country following the return of Test cricket to home soil after almost a decade.
The fact that the PSL has evolved into a global event is evident in what observers predict — that the viewership may well cross 70m this season. Indeed, with every season, the league has become bigger and better, attracting leading players from Pakistan, the West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, England, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other nations, besides drawing top sponsors, broadcasters and, most importantly, fans.
However, the PSL has had its share of controversies; it must guard against them and make the event incident-free this time. The nasty ‘fixing’ scam in 2017 involving four players jolted the league. The PCB needs to have stringent measures in place in order to avert similar mishaps. It should also ensure that all foreign players feature in the games. Their abrupt pullout last year from matches in Pakistan because of security fears came as a huge disappointment to local fans and sent the wrong message to the international cricketing community. Hopefully, a successful PSL will help allay fears and give everyone much to celebrate amid competitive contests.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2020