THE seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League is up and running. The T20 extravaganza opened on the back of a solid past year for the national team which has raised expectations of a promising future. Despite rising Omicron concerns, the PCB has pulled out all the stops to hold the month-long PSL. It was a case of now or never, especially with a packed international calendar ahead offering no other window for its marquee competition to be held. That has meant a lack of international star power with several teams engaged in international series of their own — most notably England and the West Indies. Sri Lanka are touring Australia next month, when New Zealand are hosting South Africa. The PSL is also clashing with the Bangladesh Premier League, meaning top Bangladesh players are missing. The Covid-related cancellation of the Mzansi Super League had raised hopes that South African players might be available for the PSL but their board couldn’t agree on terms with the PCB. Other semi-retired players, like Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, are playing the Legends Cricket League in Oman. PSL teams therefore had to make do with second-string foreign players despite a new broadcast deal and a huge uptick in sponsorships. Most of the top players picked by the franchises had to be replaced with those who were available. Players from England and the West Indies will arrive once their series concludes in the Caribbean but the ins and outs will happen in times of uncertainty, with a rapidly changing pandemic situation, quarantines and isolation periods.
Since taking over, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has stressed that Pakistan needs to work on equal terms with other top cricket boards. Once that is achieved, perhaps the PCB can force a window for the PSL like the Indian Premier League across the border has. In the meantime, the national team’s strong performances have resulted in the PSL being graced by Pakistan’s own stars who have won international recognition. The PSL will have the ICC Cricketer of the Year in Shaheen Shah Afridi, the best ODI player in Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and the top player in the shortest format of the game Mohammad Rizwan. That adds some excitement with the trio captaining their sides — Lahore Qalandars, Karachi Kings and defending champions Multan Sultans respectively. But most importantly, with big-name internationals missing, this season’s PSL is offering a chance for talented youngsters to make their mark on the road to becoming stars.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022