Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (C) performs during the opening ceremony of the Pakistan Super League at the the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on Thursday. AFP
The moment of truth has finally arrived as holders Quetta Gladiators and two-time champions Islamabad United prepare to fight it out at Karachi’s National Stadium on Thursday night and kick off the first HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) event to be staged entirely at home.
And even before the first ball is delivered, the curtains were lifted on Wednesday when squash legend Jahangir Khan entered the stadium with the redesigned, glittering trophy during its unveiling ceremony.
The fifth edition is undoubtedly the biggest cricketing gala to have been staged in Pakistan in decades and a source of satisfaction in the wake of visits by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh this season.
Pakistan Super League teams captains pose with the PSL trophy and cricket officials during the trophy unveiling ceremony in Karachi. AFP
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani believes the willingness of overseas stars to sign up illustrates how security has improved in a country where the army has fought a militant insurgency for years.
"So many players touring Pakistan shows the confidence they have in playing in Pakistan," said Mani, who took over last year with the aim of bringing cricket home.
"We want to show to the ICC and to other countries that we are capable of hosting an ICC event and we will aggressively bid for that,” Mani said.
"For the fans, this will be a long-awaited opportunity to see their cricketing heroes live in action and reinforce their love for this great game after being left deprived."
The PSL will be the biggest draw in the country for the next four weeks. Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan will share 34 matches featuring the six franchise-based teams. The remaining four sides are the 2017 winners Peshawar Zalmi, Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans.
The first edition of the tournament was held in the United Arab Emirates in February 2016. The event featured five teams, Multan Sultans having entered the fray only in 2018.
The PSL has grown in stature with the induction of top overseas cricketers like Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen, Brendon McCullum, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine. They team up with Pakistan’s own galaxy of stars and a rich crop of emerging talent.
There is no doubt the PSL has become a platform for youngsters to showcase their prowess. Sharing the dressing room with legends like Sir Vivian Richards and listening intently to words of wisdom from one of the greatest batsmen of the last century has been part of the grooming process.
Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali are two examples of how the tournament has polished a bunch of promising but inexperienced hands into international stars.
A number of overseas players have been impressed by the bowling skills on display at PSL and reckon it among the toughest leagues around the globe. They cite it as the springboard for the return of top-flight international cricket to Pakistan.
"My preparation, my form has not really been exactly what I wanted it to be in order to be able to perform for my team in the best way possible,” Sammy said on Thursday just before his team’s game against the defending champion Quetta Gladiators.
Despite a brave effort by aggressive batsman Liam Livingstone and captain Darren Sammy, former champion Peshawar Zalmi went down fighting as Karachi Kings emerged victorious by 10 runs in the final over in the second match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 at the National Stadium Karachi on Friday.
The 17-year-old Naseem, who has four Test caps for Pakistan and plays for title holders Quetta Gladiators in the PSL, twisted his left ankle after bowling two overs in the 30-run defeat by Peshawar Zalmi in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
Taking to Twitter, Kohli said: "Hello, I am Virat Kohli. Today I am speaking to you not as an India player, but as a citizen of the country. What I have seen in the last few days people moving in groups, not abiding by curfew rules, not following lockdown guidelines it shows that we are taking the fight very lightly. But this fight is not as easy as it looks or feels."
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