THE Pakistan Super League cricket carnival is all set to kick off today at Karachi’s National Stadium with the launch of its sixth season. Six star-studded teams will be battling it out for supremacy and the bumper winner’s purse of a quarter of a million dollars. Karachi Kings, boasting an impressive line-up of players, will be defending their title in the month-long extravaganza which will see 34 matches played in Karachi and Lahore. But the champions will face stiff competition, especially from Quetta Gladiators and Multan Sultans who have beefed up their respective squads this season. Last year’s finalists Lahore Qalandars, too, are ready to clinch their maiden PSL title, while Islamabad United, the only team to win the title twice, and 2017 winners Peshawar Zalmi are keen to win more laurels. The cash-rich PSL, which is the Pakistan Cricket Board’s flagship

event, has made great strides since its inception in 2016 and is ranked only behind the Indian Premier League in terms of popularity and magnitude among the many T20 leagues being staged around the world.

With every season, the league has become bigger and better, attracting leading players from hosts Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, England, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other nations, besides luring in top sponsors, broadcasters and, most important, the fans. In a major development last year, PSL was entirely relocated to Pakistan after its first four seasons were partly held in the UAE. That further boosted its viewership which soared to nearly 120m around the world in 2020. However, in season six the PSL, like other cricketing leagues around the world, will be confronted with the Covid-19 challenge. Amid strict safety protocols, only 20pc of fans will be allowed per match as opposed to the jam-packed arenas in the previous editions which had become the norm in the league games. Besides, the pandemic has once again forced the PCB and concerned authorities to limit PSL matches to Karachi and Lahore, whereas last year Multan and Rawalpindi also staged some games.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021

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