PSL season

Published February 8, 2023

THE exhibition match between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi at Quetta’s Bugti Stadium has set the tone for the upcoming Pakistan Super League. Iftikhar Ahmed’s brilliant batting in a game which the Gladiators won by three runs has left fans wanting more. Next week, their wait will be over when the eighth season of the country’s marquee cricket league opens in Multan, with defending champions Lahore Qalandars taking on Multan Sultans.

When the final is played in Lahore on March 19, it will mark the culmination of the first full PSL in Pakistan, with matches at four venues. Karachi and Rawalpindi are the other two, but fans in Quetta will have to wait till at least the next edition for the extravaganza to come to town. Still, the exhibition match was a step towards cricket revival in the city.

Pakistan’s stars, including the now retired Shahid Afridi and current skipper Babar Azam, lit up the Bugti Stadium but it was the Gladiators’ Iftikhar who stole the show, hitting six sixes in a single over in front of 20,000 fans. It will be more serious business next time with the title on the line.

PSL has provided a launching pad for several of the team’s current stars, and for them, hitting top form will be key. A busy calendar awaits them after PSL with a home series against New Zealand before the tour of Sri Lanka. The Asia Cup, scheduled to be hosted in Pakistan but the venue for which will be confirmed later, is set for September before the ODI World Cup. That’s the title on which most will focus, but PSL’s top performers will need to make a smooth transition from the T20 format to the 50-over one. PSL contributed to Pakistan’s last world title, the Champions Trophy in 2017, and the hope is that this year’s edition can help the team win the ODI World Cup for the first time since 1992.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2023

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