The much-anticipated seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) kicked off on Thursday with an impressive opening ceremony at Karachi's National Stadium.
The event began with a documentary shedding light on the journey of cricket in Pakistan featuring a voice over by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja.
Paragliders also descended from the sky at one point, making a clean landing in the stadium.
Singers Atif Aslam and Aima Baig turned up the heat on a cold Karachi evening by performing this year's anthem 'Agay Dekh'.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's special message to PSL teams was also played during the ceremony, followed by a vibrant fireworks display.
The ceremony was followed by a match between defending champions Multan Sultans and Karachi Kings. Pakistan skipper Babar Azam lead the Kings while wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan was the captain for Sultans.
The recent rise of coronavirus cases across Pakistan has forced the PCB to limit spectators in Karachi — which will host matches until Feb 7 — to 25 per cent only, following recommendations by the National Command and Operation Centre.
No such decision has been taken for Lahore yet, with the city’s Gaddafi Stadium set to host PSL matches from February 10 to 27, including the final.
It’s not only the fans who have to face restrictions due to the pandemic.
The PCB has arranged strict bio-secure bubbles for the six franchise sides, with the intent to avoid delays at any cost. According to the playing conditions set by the board’s technical committee, matches will go ahead even if 13 players out of the teams’ 20-man squads are available
In a situation where the player availability is even lower, affected teams will be allowed to pick from a reserve pool. If a Covid-19 outbreak occurs, the tournament will be halted for seven days, bio-secure bubbles will be reset from scratch and double-headers will be held in the remaining days to meet the February 27 deadline.
Despite these steps, the pandemic has already put a dampener of the event before its start. Earlier today, Quetta Gladiators announced that all-rounder Shahid Afridi would miss the start of PSL after testing positive for coronavirus.
The first leg of 15 matches will be played in Karachi from Jan 27 to Feb 7, while the remaining 19 matches will be held in Lahore from Feb 10-27.