Where does the 6-year-old PSL really stand?

Published February 19, 2021
A mural displayed outside the Gaddafi Stadium shows a countdown to the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League.
—M. Arif/White Star
A mural displayed outside the Gaddafi Stadium shows a countdown to the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League. —M. Arif/White Star

It is the hallmark of sports media to talk up their own athletes, their own sports and their own leagues in a bid to project an image far greater than reality.

It is this hyperbole that sees American media declare Super Bowl winners as "world champions" even though the National Football League (NFL) is a local event at best; not only is it not open to international teams but is also barely understood elsewhere around the globe.

Nothing against American football, it must be a cracking sport even if it is not our cup of tea, but the preamble was to illustrate that TV media everywhere is prone to these shenanigans.

The English press is often accused of hyping up their local talent just because it is their talent. You will find plenty of similar examples to the east of our borders where cricket reigns supreme.

And, as much as it pains me to say, our dear nation might also have picked up the rather annoying proclivity for hyperbole when it comes to matters concerning the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

Perhaps, it is cricket’s de facto status as the national sport or maybe it’s the P in PSL that makes us want to get into the debates of statures.

TV reporters are often spotted shoving microphones into the faces of foreign players, demanding that comparisons be made with the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League.

As obliging guests in another country, foreign cricketers end up comparing PSL favourably with its bigger rivals. But one can argue that such exercises completely miss the point.

The real reason to celebrate PSL is not its size, the stars it attracts or even the money it generates. The main source of pride for PSL fans should be the tournament's continued existence, which enters its sixth year in two days.

In a country where — until not too long ago — no civilian government had managed to exist for five years, a cricket league has lasted for six.

The tournament has been a constant fixture since 2015, overcoming obstacles such as scant finances and even the coronavirus pandemic.

In just five short years, it has swiftly become the country's greatest sports brand, surviving a regime change, a financial wrangle and a pandemic to become the crown jewel in Pakistani cricket fans’ sports calendar.

Every new year now starts with anticipation for PSL. The franchises are now well-established brands, with their unique ethos and styles of play.

If Quetta Gladiators are consistent, the Karachi Kings are flamboyant. If Lahore Qalandars are the neutrals’ favourites, then Peshawar Zalmi are the cool cats. If Islamabad United are silent assassins then Multan Sultans are the newest kids on the block.

PSL and its components have already formed distinguishable personalities of their own, which does not happen easily in nascent franchised leagues.

In a highly polarised country — where a guest team was attacked resulting in no foreign player wanting to set foot in Pakistan — for an event such as PSL to exist and grow every year is a remarkable feat.

The league represents the country’s tale of persistence and fight in the face of adversities […] and traffic jams. So what if Ben Stokes does not play PSL just yet or the league does not pay IPL-level salaries just yet? That day can wait.

For now, the pride is in the rocky terrain we’ve travelled to reach this far.

The writer is a lifelong cricket fan who lives for the Pakistan cricket team and PSL but is also a realist and has no problems calling spade a spade.


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