PSL could open doors for international cricket to return to Pakistan.
At last, the first edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is around the corner. As repeatedly stated by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the rationale behind holding Pakistan's own T20 league is to bring international cricket back to the country. However, PSL is going to be held in the United Arab Emirates from February 4 to February 23.
PSL is a franchise-based Twenty20 tournament which is being launched with the official approval of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The mega event is similar to the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), and the Indian Premier League (IPL).
A three-week tournament, PSL will feature local and international players who will represent five teams from major Pakistani cities like Lahore as Lahore Qalandars, Karachi as Karachi Kings, Islamabad as Islamabad United, Peshawar as the Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta as the Quetta Gladiators.
Based on their experience and track record, players have been grouped in five categories, i. e. Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver and Emerging. Each team can pick three players from each of the top three categories, while at least two players will be selected from the Emerging category. Each team has been sold as a franchise for a period of 10 years and will have a 16member squad, including ten to eleven Pakistani cricketers plus foreign players.
Among the international players are some leading names like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Kumar Sangakkara, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Shakib Al Hasan and many others.
The idea of PSL first emerged in 2007 but it took PCB eight years to materialize the project owing to frequent administrative changes
in the Board. The purpose was not only to revive international cricket in Pakistan, but organize PSL as as a useful instrument to take the PCB out of its financial crisis incurred through repetitive cancellation of bilateral series against many international sides.
Surviving in the cricket world with its nomadic existence since 2009, no country, at the moment, needs international cricket on its own land other than Pakistan. Now having sold its five teams for 9.3 billion rupees (93 million dollars) finally, the muchawaited Pakistan Super League is ready to take off next month. Given that the ICC clearly refused to send its match officials to Pakistan for a series played between Pakistan and Zimbabwe last year and the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) has repeatedly warned international teams against touring Pakistan, the question remains: will the PSL be able to revive international cricket in Pakistan?
“The global game cannot afford to rest until Pakistan is fully incorporated again. We need this land of cricket warriors every bit as it needs us,” said Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire batsman.
According to him, “The ICC must continue to watch over Pakistan and ensure that pastoral and fiscal help is at hand, as it is expensive and destabilising to play home games abroad. Zimbabwe’s recent visit to Pakistan was a success, as were trips by Kenya and Afghanistan. The next move should be for a representative ICC team to tour the country, a World XI if you like,” says Nicholas.
Waqar Younus, a former Pakistan fast bowler who is currently the head coach of the Pakistan cricket team, fears the future of Pakistan cricket could be shaky if its exile does not end in the near future. “If international cricket is not revived in the next couple of years I fear the game will die down. No international cricket (at home) has hit Pakistan badly. Look at the generation which took up the game in or around 2009. They have not been able to watch international cricket and a whole lot of players have not played in Pakistan,” says Younus.
Chairman of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Rajiv Shukla, who is also a senior official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI), says “If Pakistan continues to play in the UAE, its cricket will suffer. If PCB develops Lahore into a safe venue by constructing a team hotel near the stadium and by providing adequate security, then India will have no objection to play in the city.”
Continues Shukla: “If one incident happened does it mean there should be no cricket in Pakistan?”
In complete contrast, former Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar terms Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan last year as a ‘baby step.’ He says, “Whatever the country’s Boards may decide, I am sure not many top Indian players would like to go there and play if they are asked today. After what happened in 2009, most players would refuse to tour the country. India’s top players may not tour Pakistan.”
“There are more steps required before it can say that international cricket is back in Pakistan,” says Gavaskar.
Though Gavaskar’s remarks may appear to be quite harsh for many of us, PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan, too, thinks on the same lines. In a reply to the question, ‘Is Pakistan safe for international cricket?’ Khan says, “No, not yet. Not completely. It’s only safe because we’re able to take precautions.”
“Around eight to nine years ago, Imran Khan said nobody will attack cricket in Pakistan because the public will turn against those terrorists. I disagreed with him right away and felt it was a wrong statement. To me, terrorists will attack cricket because it’s so important to the public. The terrorists want to achieve something out of it and it’s a fact, which has to be accepted. The army is doing a brilliant job, but we have to make sure the safety of foreign cricketers in Pakistan. And if you don’t understand and realise this reality, you are turning a blind eye to the real issue that exists on the ground.”
Taking the aforesaid into consideration, PSL is not more than an overhyped idea to bring international cricket back to the country. The league will bring money to the cash-starved Board, offer its local players the opportunity to play with leading international players and will enhance a positive image of the country. However, unless PCB manages to organize the event on its home grounds, its ability to bring international cricket back to the country may not be a possibility.
Even if PSL turns out to be a huge success, it would not bring international cricket back to the country unless it is held in Pakistan and nowhere else. When the chief of Pakistan cricket doesn’t regard Pakistan as a safe place for international players, it will take more than a mere PSL to revive international cricket in the country.
The writer is the member of the staff.