The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Pak­istan is set to launch its first fran­chise-based Twenty20 league in the UAE on Thurs­day as its cash-strapped cricket board seeks to boost rev­enues and re­verse the na­tional team's slide in the game's short­est for­mat.

The long-awaited first edi­tion of the Pak­istan Su­per League fol­lows two pre­vi­ous at­tempts that fell through over a lack of spon­sor­ship and the sus­pen­sion of in­ter­na­tional cricket at home in the wake of a mil­i­tant at­tack on the Sri Lankan team al­most seven years ago.

With Pak­istan's once-dom­i­nant Twenty20 side slid­ing to a lowly sev­enth place in world rank­ings fol­low­ing a their re­cent se­ries loss against New Zealand, or­gan­is­ers are keen for lo­cal tal­ent to hone their skills along­side the world's best play­ers in­clud­ing Chris Gayle, Kevin Pi­etersen and Shane Wat­son.

Fea­tur­ing 69 lo­cal and 29 for­eign stars, the five-team, 24match league will be held from Fe­bru­ary 4-23 across two sta­di­ums in Shar­jah and Dubai - Pak­istan's "home away from home" since the 2009 ter­ror at­tack. The teams were sold to pri­vate con­sor­tiums for a sum of $93 mil­lion across 10 years, with $200,000 salaries for top-tier play­ers and rel­a­tively hand­some pay­days for middle-tier and emerg­ing tal­ent. The win­ning side, mean­while, will bring home $1 mil­lion. For­mer cap­tain and leg­endary fast bowler Wasim Akram said the league was vi­tal for Pak­istan to match the fast-ris­ing stan­dards of other Twenty20 teams. "Look at where In­dian cricket is now be­cause of the In­dian Premier League," he said, re­fer­ring to the brash, glitzy tour­na­ment first launched in 2008 whose model has been em­u­lated by other lead­ing teams in­clud­ing Aus­tralia and West Indies.

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