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Najam Sethi invites PM Nawaz, Imran Khan to PSL final
SHARJAH: Pakistan Cricket Board’s Executive Committee chief and Pakistan Super League (PSL) chairman Najam Sethi on Monday invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to watch the final of the tournament to be held on February 23.
“I invite Patron PCB Nawaz Sharif & World Cup winning captain Imran Khan to PSL Final on 23rd Feb. Gentlemen, put politics aside and watch cricket,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.
Besides inviting both the personalities, Sethi requested cricket fans to start a trend on Twitter to build pressure on both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to “join us in Dubai”.
Though Pakistan cricket authorities have been unable to restore international cricket in home grounds, the Pakistan Super League T20 tournament is seen as a fresh breath of air for the sport.
Id like to see them both at the final...itll be fun hearing 'Go Nawaz Go' with the man in presence lol
Pakistan Super League: Quetta Gladiators are super and five things we have learnt so far
Cricket’s newest Twenty20 franchise league is now approaching the business end of its first season. From Tuesday begin the final seven games of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
We look back at some of the highlights, and lowlights, of an eventful first 11 days of the event.
Quetta: Underdog story
Of all the big cities in Pakistan, Quetta is probably the most marginalised. It was also the least expensive of the five franchises. So the success of Quetta Gladiators, already in the play-offs, has been the story of the tournament.
They are not really an underdog side, of course. No side with Kevin Pietersen in it and Viv Richards as a mentor can be.
But as capital of a troubled province, and perennially under-represented in the national conversation (only one player from Balochistan has ever played for Pakistan), it has been heartening to see Quetta do so well.
Chris Gayle’s reputation as the poster-boy for franchise-hopping T20 specialists is well-earned but there are signs it may now be dimming. Leagues still think he is important to have commercially, that he adds lustre to their product.
But scores of six, nought, 37 and nought have added nothing for Lahore Qalandars, except as a reputation for the league’s Hollywood side, who prefer style to substance.
Rumours have floated questioning his commitment to the league, and when he missed a game, at one stage it was thought he would be flying back. His back has constrained his movement, as well.
The prospect of an imminent Gayle explosion always retains allure, but three dismissals in the first over of the innings are below par. And in a post-match interview on Saturday with Tom Moody, he ended by saying: “Cheers Tom, don’t blush Tom.”
That was in reference to his encounter with a female reporter in Australia, for which he was fined AU$10,000 (Dh26,115) and widely condemned.
He cackled loudly after saying it, too, suggesting that he does not feel the need for repentance.
Ball of the tournament
With due respect to all the balls and bowlers that are still to come in the league, it will be difficult, if not impossible to better Mohammed Asghar’s castling of Shane Watson last Friday in Sharjah.
Given that bowlers have felt more integral to this league than many others, there has been a bigger field to choose from.
The pace of Shaun Tait and Wahab Riaz has wrought some excellent wickets. Saeed Ajmal’s first-ball trapping of James Vince, with a regulation, cleared-action off-break was another memorable one.
But Asghar’s delivery that night in the fifth over was something else. Watson still presents an imposing, bullying obstacle at the crease. He is still capable of T20 brutality.
Asghar, who has been among the finds of the tournament, beat him with the kind of ball left-arm spinners dream about taking wickets with: some flight, late dip and curve, before tweaking away, eluding Watson’s defensive prod and clipping off-stump.
It was a delivery that would have been at home in a Test.
For most of Friday, it felt like we were back in the late 80s and 90s. The road outside Sharjah’s stadium was choked not only with cars but a river of humanity making its way to the action.
There were so many people waiting outside that queues began to develop their own order – and queuing is not a Pakistani strong point. Those who attempted to jump the queue were shamed publicly into leaving and joining the back of the line. After a while no more could be let in.
Inside the stadium the stands were jam-packed so that it felt like an October Friday in 1989, with Pakistan and India set to take each other on soon after Friday prayers. Except, with four Pakistani teams playing, nobody was going to go home unhappy.
There was a din throughout the day, but the roar when Shahid Afridi arrived at the ground – not to the crease or even on to the field – but just to the ground to make his way towards the dressing rooms, was unreal.
Memo to England
There is a fair sprinkling of English talent, new and used, through the league. James Vince, with Karachi, and Sam Billings, with Islamabad, are firmly in England’s T20 plans.
Both are in the World Twenty20 squad as well and undoubtedly better for prolonged exposure to spin in conditions somewhat similar to what they may face in India.
But there are also three more familiar faces here, doing pretty well for themselves.
Kevin Pietersen has not played a substantial innings just yet, but he has contributed on as well as off the field significantly. His Quetta teammate Luke Wright, also ignored by England, has also been a factor in Quetta topping the table.
Trumping them all though is another recent England discard.
Who would have thought before the PSL began that Bopara would be third-highest run-scorer and joint top wicket-taker more than halfway in?
England’s limited-overs resurgence has gone better than expectations, but perhaps there is some fuel in these legs, too?
Still a long way to go, says Afridi
Pakistan's Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi has stressed that the Pakistan Super League was here to stay.
The recent PSL matches at the historic Sharjah Stadium attracted record crowds and Afridi believes that the batsmen-friendly wicket played a big role in entertaining spectators.
"Sharjah is always batsmen-friendly and fans enjoy fours and sixes," he pointed out.
The teams have now moved back to Dubai for the final stage. "I hope Dubai wicket will play better now. We are expecting big scores in coming matches. The tournament has been a success so far and I hope it finishes well. The PSL is going to stay here," Afridi added.
Peshawar Zalmi captain Afridi while talking to the media about the tournament said: "Although we have qualified for playoffs but there is still a lot to play for. We want to finish the qualifying round on a winning note and not get complacent."
"We are trying to minimise the mistakes. T20 is a very killing format and sometimes one mistake can cost you the match. I am trying to lift my own performance and carry it into Asia Cup and World T20," Afridi said, referring to his five-wicket haul against Quetta Gladiators on Sunday.
Talking about the youth in the PSL Afridi said: "It is a brave new world for the youngsters. They might be doing well at below-standard domestic level but experience of performing in front of big crowds like Sharjah is a different ball game. If they keep on playing in such conditions for next two to three years, it will do a world of good for them.
"We have got a number of talented players on the bench and I want them to play at this stage."
Wooing spectators: PSL teams vie for fans’ loyalty
With spectators still unsure regarding which team to support — some opt to back their cities or the ones closest to theirs, others go for their favourite players, while others still are choosing whichever side is performing the best — the teams are literally playing for fan loyalty at this early stage of the HBL PSL.
Pre-tournament favourites Karachi Kings, representing the country’s biggest city, were all the rage in the port city early on, but as wins dried up, so has the support for the team.
Now, the blue of Karachi has been replaced by the purple of Quetta Gladiators or the yellow of Peshawar Zalmi — the tournament’s top two sides so far.
“I want Karachi to win but they are not playing well, so I decided to go for the players I like; and most of them — Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hafeez and Shaun Tait — are in Zalmi,” said 17-year-old Karachi resident Hassan Latif while playing on the streets for a side filled with Peshawar fans.
Their opponents were those supporting Quetta. “I hit big like Ahmed Shehzad, and another reason we are supporting Quetta is that their captain — Sarfraz Ahmed — is from Karachi,” said Minhaj Abid.
And shirt sales reflect this changing trend.
A shopkeeper in Karachi, Abdul Rehman, reveals he had sold around 800 Karachi Kings shirts even before the tournament began, but demand for the shirts of Quetta and Peshawar have increased during the past two weeks.
“I bought loads of Karachi kits due to the demand they had earlier on, but now I have sold as many as 900 Peshawar shirts and 800 Quetta shirts while the Karachi ones have decreased in popularity,” he said. “I now have to get more shirts for Peshawar and Quetta, but at least sports markets are thriving again due to the HBL PSL.”
Another shopkeeper, Jumma Khan, feels Peshawar are popular due to the presence of Pakistan T20I skipper Afridi in their ranks. “Peshawar’s is one of the most popular kits even in Karachi,” he said. “That is down to their performances and due to Afridi, as everyone wants the number 10 shirt that he wears.”
But Karachi is not the only city whose hearts have been conquered by Gladiators and Zalmi. A similar trend can be seen in Islamabad, despite their side Islamabad United not doing that badly in third place.
“Our team does boast big names, but they are not able to play together, which has affected fan following, even in Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” said Nadeem Ali, owner of a sports shop, Olympic Sports, in Rawalpindi. “I have hardly sold 200 kits of Islamabad, while I have sold more than 450 Zalmi kits during the last week alone.”
Those in Lahore, however, have proven not quite as fickle though. “Lahore Qalandar kits are still selling very well and I have sold over a thousand already,” said Malik Jameel, manager of a sports shop, Butt Sports, in Lahore’s Liberty Market.
“People are supporting Lahore regardless of whether they win or lose,” he said. “Peshawar’s sales are second on the list but they are still considerably lower with just 350 kits sold, while the other three combined have just managed 200.”
With Peshawar and Quetta performing so well, the cities do not have to fear their residents supporting any other side. “I have not kept the kit of any other team except Peshawar’s, nor has anyone asked for any other kit,” said Abdul Rasheed, owner of Rasheed Sports in Peshawar. “I have sold more than 3,000 Peshawar kits. The demand has only increased along with performance, and I had to order a fresh batch recently.”
Teams continue to battle it out for the big prize in the heat of the UAE desert, but here in Pakistan, fans still remain undecided on where their loyalties lie.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2016.
Zong Surprises its International Roamers with 20 Free Tickets to PSL Matches
PSL is the most prolific Pakistani cricketing events ever and owing to the success of the event Zong decided to give out Free tickets to 20 of its international roaming subscribers in Dubai.
Commenting on this occasion, Babar Bajwa, Zong’s Chief Commercial Officer (CCO)spoke out proudly.
“Needless to say Pakistani’s are a cricket loving nation. The overwhelming and full of life response Pakistanis have given to PSL has added more colour to this event. PSL is a household name these days, not only in Pakistan but other parts of the world where cricket lovers exist. Since the event is being hosted outside Pakistan each of the winners are excited to have been chosen to avail this opportunity.”
Mr Bajwa added,
“What else could a diehard cricket fan want and that too an absolutely free entry to the PSL matches. It would be like a dream coming true for 20 ardent cricket lovers and they will remember Zong for offering them this precious gift.”
Zong, Pakistan’s only 3G and 4G services provider, has officially partnered with the PSL with an aim to resuscitate the otherwise dead cricketing scenario in Pakistan that hit rock bottom in recent times. While some other telecom companies are sponsoring individual PSL teams, Zong partnered with PCB to promote cricket, adopting a much broader and holistic approach.
PSL is a means to keep the game afloat in hearts of Pakistani supporters
Pakistani crowds, are one of the most passionate in the world, have not found the means to express their burning love for the game in the last six years. A total breakdown in security issues following the infamous firing on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 ensured the highest level of the game, or a worthy equivalent of it has stayed away from the country for almost seven years (except a brief series with Zimbabweafter guarantees of top-level security). The current state of affairs shows no signs of letting up soon.
To be hopeful, the game could return to Pakistan in full flow not before 2020 (though as cricket fans, we no of unpredictability). If it eases off enough for high-profile teams to be able to tour the country before that, it would be fantastic, but also very surprising.
At times like this, Pakistan needed newer ways of keeping their loyal fan base at home engaged with the sport. The men in green do play a lot of international cricket, staging their home fixtures often in empty, forlorn looking stadiums in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But, at a time when most other countries are jumping onto the T20 bandwagon, Pakistan needed to do better than that to maintain levels of engagement.
In came the Pakistan Super League (PSL). After years of failed negotiations and deliberations, their dream has finally come to fruition. Pakistan have a T20 league of their own and like other top leagues in the world it boasts some of the most enthralling cricketers from across the globe.
Well, like with other international events, the PSL is also being held in UAE. However, here the spirit of inter-city rivalries has taken grip. There is a more direct way for the Pakistan fans to relate to the cricket. It promises to keep the flame of passion for cricket burning.
PSL should be held regularly to bring competition in Pakistan cricket, feels Shahid Afridi
Pakistan T20I skipper Shahid Afridi feels the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has the potential to produce new cricket talents and he mentioned that the competition, which is similar to the IPL (Indian Premier League), should be played on a regular basis.
The veteran Pakistani batsman, who will lead the Pakistan T20 team in the upcoming Asia Cup 2016 as well as the ICC World T20 2016, added further that the PSL can bring out the much-needed competition among the Pakistani cricketers and that will also help in bringing consistency to the national team.
"Unfortunately our players [in the national team] lack consistency," Afridi, 35, was quoted by Press Trust of India. "I am hoping that if the Pakistan Super League is held regularly for the two to three years then new talent will emerge and also get a chance to polish itself playing in front of crowds in the PSL," he explained.
"Back home in domestic cricket no one comes to watch matches and there is no real pressure on the players to do well. To me the PSL can serve as the platform where players can develop their confidence and learn to play under pressure."
As of now, Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators, Islamabad United and Karachi Kings remain the four teams to have qualified for the PSL playoffs, which starts on Friday.
Quite a handful of Pakistani youngsters have come from the inaugural edition of the PSL, but Pakistan coach Waqar Younis recently spoke that the PSL will have to wait to become as big as the IPL and produce players like Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma.
"I think we shouldn't keep our expectations high from the PSL in its first year. It will take time say three to four years before we can expect this league to also give us the Virat Kohli's or Rohit Sharma's like the IPL did for India," the former bowler, who was a master of the reverse swing, said.
"But we need to be patient and give it at least three to four years before we can expect the PSL to mould our young talent into international material players," Waqar added.
PSL: A great new hope is born
There’s an unmistakable newfound confidence that says ‘we’re here, we have the smarts and we matter’
Cool Couple: Mr & Mrs Misbah-ul-Haq (top left). Surprise Package: Quetta Gladiators (middle). Affectionate: Kevin Pietersen with Umar Gul’s daughter (right). Afghan Terror: Mohammad Nabi with the illustrious Sir Viv Richards (bottom left).
There’s so much to write home about with the inaugural Pakistan Super League it hardly matters that this piece will not have an icing on the cake because of deadline constraints — that bane of pun-pushers, or shall we say, key-punchers in true T20 style!
Never mind. There will be time for a walloping critique in true sporting fashion. Abdul Qadir, the Ghulam Ali of leg spin in the ghazal sense, for one, did raise a number of multilayered questions recently surrounding the end product — especially the poser about how many local batsmen of decent capability can the slam bang PSL circus throw up? — but let’s not read the riot act for the sake of one, and just yet.
We just had a baby, and while it may have seemed like a Caesarian section to the wounded few (no dearth of disgruntled gents at the hands of the mean PCB), there’s definitely so much more worth shouting about. More so, in the absence of cheerleaders in the desert.
The colourful scheme of things that the PSL has turned out to be makes it a touch difficult not to be swayed by feel good emotion, even tremulous pride. After all, Pakistan cricket has looked barren for so long that even the Thar Desert has seemed a little less parched at the worst of times. As an avid follower of the game with a bit of insight and some reach into how it is run at least across the South Asian region for more than three decades, one is willing to wager that the PSL is probably, the best thing to have happened to Pakistan cricket since the 1992 epoch-making milestone. The Waterford crystal trophy itself, of course, was not the benchmark but a culmination of Imran Khan’s decade-old leadership that gave Pakistan cricket a sense of direction and, more importantly, self-belief.
After the unfortunate attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009, we were left bruised in spirit and continent-hopping with no place to call home. PSL will have done much to revive Pakistan cricket’s fortunes even though it is some distance from its avowed mission of bringing the troops, and paraphernalia home. But it’s a start, and a terrific one at that.
This space is too little to encapsulate what has happened in the past fortnight and a half. While the action has been breathtaking on the field, no less endearing has it been off it either.
From that colossus of the post-War pantheon, Sir Vivian Richards, jumping like an Olympian hurdler to celebrate Quetta Glads’ sensational chase down of a 200 plus score (I’m told it has happened only once in 8 editions of IPL) after an Afghan ‘terror’ (the affable Mohammad Nabi) scripted perhaps, the greatest T20 last over assault to Mohammad Amir’s eyeball grabbing hat-trick and the fervent Calypso appeal of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and that irrepressibly, lovable character Darren Sammy to the who’s who of Pakistan cricket pitted against each other (Ahmed Shehzad vs Wahab Riaz, Misbah vs Afridi…you get the drift) in what had only seemed like a figment of imagination until now, there it was!
Off the park, if Kevin Pieterson was playing with Umar Gul’s little darling sitting pretty on his lap, Afridi’s daughters were winning hearts on the telly — with a rare glimpse of Mrs Boom Boom in the stands. If rival keepers Sarfaraz Ahmed and Kamran Akmal — remember who replaced whom and how — were both happy in a single frame with Moin Khan as if calling Ripley’s attention, Zainab Abbas, the fetching super bilingual new face of Pakistan cricket speak, was amply providing the kind of soft image this country has craved for donkeys years.
So what’s the take home then, for now (a record 55% of Pakistan’s population was glued to the idiot box for a Karachi vs Lahore round robin rendezvous, according to one estimate)?
The best thing PSL has done is to have returned the smile to Pakistan cricket. There’s an unmistakable newfound confidence that says ‘we may have been denied our due — think IPL — but we’re here, we have the smarts and we matter’. With the foreign imports no less impressed with the fare, our leaguers may even be entitled to chide: Take that!
This brings me to the next best thing that has happened: bonding. Not only has a neat spread of national team players worn different jerseys for the city franchises but have been afforded a unique gelling experience with some of the world’s best players in the format and an array of topnotch coaches on the international circuit.
The same bonding may bode well on another level, too. It will have hopefully, worked some space in the minds of the hitherto reluctant international stars about playing in Pakistan, sometime in the future. While there’s no disputing the colour of money, don’t be surprised if the cheese will move enough for some of them to take a punt a couple of editions down the road.
For now, the fare is restricted to little more than a television sport for cricket-starved Pakistanis at home. But make no mistake, it will have done enough to fire the imagination of the young. Quick fame, rolling greenback, and reasonably short route to the national colours is bound to lure their lot. Simple math actually!
Expect the competition to hot up even further from the next edition when franchises will have wisened to the right mix. The nature of the sport — and platform — is such that aspiring players and even those like Saeed Ajmal trying to make a comeback will be forced to think on their feet, and often out-of-the-box. The new verve is already evident with the likes of Mohammad Nawaz and Ruman Raees making such an unbelievably quick impact as to find a place in the Asia and World T20 squads in less than a week of the PSL getting off ground!
We may be in the middle of a mini revolution here. A little peace, and the possibilities will be endless. Say touchwood!
Sheikh Rasheed to watch PSL final in Dubai
RAWALPINDI: Leader of the Awami Muslim League (AML) Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed tweeted on Friday that he shall be attending the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) that will take place on February 23 in Dubai.
The picture that he tweeted representing his decision to travel to Dubai and watch some cricket, showed the crowd of some stadium making a picture of his face by holding large posters together and the caption within the picture read “AML Chief, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed would join and support PSL on 23rd February in Dubai.”
Recently, Najam Sethi who is the head of Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) executive committee invited Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan to attend the final of PSL together, keeping their political differences aside only to watch some cricket. Till now both political leaders have not openly accepted or denied the initiation.
Pakistan cricket's renaissance moment
A full house in Sharjah thrills in anticipation for a game of domestic cricket. Yes, domestic cricket. Pakistan fans at home and abroad watch on television, YouTube, and any internet feed available. There is a fevered buzz on social media. Ramiz Raja talks about "amping it up". Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Shahid Afridi are on the menu. There are sixes. There are wickets. Importantly, there are smiles. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the unexpected wonder of the Pakistan Super League.
There are detractors unwilling to embrace this modern world that they've heard about, but in the surreal bubble of the PSL, Ravi Bopara is king, Umar Akmal plays a match-winning innings, and Mohammad Sami bowls straight.
There is more. Viv Richards mentors Ahmed Shehzad. Wasim Akram is the team director of Islamabad United.
This is no twilight zone of our imaginations. This is all real. These and other miracles, dreams we dared not dream, occur each night in the inaugural PSL.
The first rule of Pakistan's domestic cricket was that nobody talked about Pakistan's domestic cricket, except in disparaging, despairing tones. But in its first seven days, the PSL has done more to capture our attention than the seven decades of domestic cricket that preceded it. That is achievement enough. Pakistan cricket will now be separated neatly into two eras. Analysts will ponder the effect of this latest T20 competition on the fortunes of the world's most enigmatic cricket nation.
At one time, the prospect of Pakistan staging a successful domestic tournament seemed as likely as that of gravitational ripples being detected. We now have both. While we struggle to grasp the meaning of billion-year-old waves surging through our space-time continuum, the importance of the fledgling PSL is less obscure. Pakistan cricket, that isolated, penniless, dying creature, is having a renaissance moment.
The PSL is a lifeline, a survival bunker in the blitz of grievous misfortune that has bombarded Pakistan and its cricket
In a sense, franchise-based cricket isn't new to Pakistan. First-class teams traditionally belong to banks and corporations, who sustain domestic cricket and offer employment to players. But the model is an unsatisfactory one, the very definition of worthy but dull, failing to fire the public's imagination or generate worthwhile competition and revenue.
Pakistan's neglect of domestic cricket was exposed following the 2009 attacks on Sri Lanka's players in Lahore. With national teams unwilling to tour Pakistan and international fixtures limited, domestic cricket gained an urgent importance in player development and in simply keeping cricket alive. That largely failed.
The best success was achieved with Pakistan's national T20 tournament, the forerunner to the PSL, which showcased city-based teams and soothed some of the pain of Pakistan's players being excluded from the IPL. But it was a tournament for a local market, missing out on the glamour of international stars and global audiences.
Enter the PSL with franchises based in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, playing subtly on regional rivalries. There is nothing new here, except for the courageous absence of cheerleaders. The PSL does not boast the glamour of the IPL, the polish of the Big Bash, or the history of England's T20 competition, but it is no less significant. It is a lifeline, a survival bunker in the blitz of grievous misfortune that has bombarded Pakistan and its cricket.
Yes, the PSL has its flaws. The small crowds in Dubai are a worry. Some of the world's top players are missing. There are no Indians. It needs more teams, more franchises, since much of the competition consists of reducing five teams to four.
Crucially, when the time is right, the tournament does need to be held in Pakistan. But as long as security remains a concern, the UAE is a fine enough home. The other flaws are merely minor irritations for there is much that is good about the PSL.
A major coup was recruiting the international stars of T20 cricket. Mercenaries they might be, but no T20 thrash can be legitimate in their absence. Everything else flows from this. By raising standards and offering an opportunity to learn from the best in the trade, from the players, coaches and mentors, the PSL will improve the national team.
Pakistan was strong in T20 cricket at the outset but the game has advanced quickly in the marquee tournaments, leaving them behind. Developments in T20 cricket are influencing the 50-over game again, another format that Pakistan is failing at. Hence, for cricketing reasons, the PSL has arrived just in time.
Now, players of all ranks have incentives. Young players can challenge and emerge. Two of those who created an early impression, Rumman Raees and Mohammad Nawaz, are in the World T20 squad. But there are others - take Usama Mir, Karachi's six-foot legspinner, for example.
We can be reacquainted with past friends like Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan, check on their progress, and remind ourselves that there is always a way back through outstanding performance. Current international players can develop their skills too. More cricket at a higher level is essential. Even the journeymen of Pakistan cricket are able to enjoy some scenes in the limelight.
It doesn't matter that the PSL is dominated by Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators, although the format does allow for a twist in the tale. It matters less that the traditional powers of Karachi and Lahore are failing to win games. Their struggle seems perfectly fine, even for a Lahori like me whose main man is Umar Akmal. It matters more that people have a team to call their own, to support and enthuse about. Cricket still matters to people in Pakistan, and the PSL has tapped into that passion.
For a country mad on sport, a relatively poor country that has surprisingly excelled in three major sports, squash, hockey and cricket, the decline in sport is alarming. The story of cricket, in particular, has mirrored the rise and fall of a nation. Perhaps the central message of the PSL extends beyond cricket? At least that is my hope, that Pakistan, after years of being on the floor, is finally on its way back as a nation, driven by youth and embracing the modern world in a way that sits comfortably with its sense of being.
These might be foolish hopes to pin on a mere cricket tournament, but the state of Pakistan cricket has always been a bellwether of the country's fortunes. On the evidence of the PSL, Pakistan is finally brushing itself off, ready to play its part in the modern world that we've heard about.
Enjoy it now we can.
Getting very annoyed with Cricinfo's coverage of the tournament. First, they only publish bare minimum in post match reports, which is not ideal, but fine. But then they publish only negative pieces on the league itself, go to the league home page and you only see 3 news/opinion/blog items (rest are post game "articles"). One is about Cooper's suspect action, one is about Andre Russell's reluctant stance on coming to Pakistan, and now today we have "The problem with PSL" article being put in spotlight.
Come on guys, at least try to hide your bias a little. Pathetic. They really need a competitor in the business.
No it will be shameful. Inside country he is Nawaz Sharif but outside he is the Mr Prime Minister of Pakistan. You cant humiliate your PM in front of others
PCB hopeful of breaking even as Pakistan Super League nears end
The inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has already grabbed attention with some nail-biting finishes and capacity crowds in the United Arab Emirates.
Expectations with the league were high and when it kicked off on February 4, followers of the game began comparing it with the likes of Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash T20.
Two weeks into the tournament, project director and the mastermind behind the league, Salman Sarwar Butt, revealed how Pakistan’s very own franchise based T20 league has fared so far.
Here is what Butt says about the lucrative league:
Total Investment made by both Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the five franchises was around $20 million
Some franchises will go close to the break even after the first edition while some will not
PCB is very possibly set to break even
Will the PSL be staged in Pakistan? If yes, when?
We wished to organise the league in Pakistan, but we have to strictly consider the security situation back home as there is involvement of foreign players and coaches
We will definitely take the league back to Pakistan as the security improves with time
The next edition will be held in February 2017 in the UAE, but we are considering staging some matches in Pakistan
Can the franchises handle player transfers just like European football leagues? Any new franchise for next season?
Franchises have the liberty to totally revamp their teams for next season if they wish to
At the moment, all players have signed a one-year contract with their franchises who have an option to extend the contracts for two or three more years or not to renew and eventually release the players
Contractually, another franchise can be added to the PSL in the third edition and the fourth franchise can be added in the fourth edition only
PSL, despite being staged away from Pakistan, has attracted houseful crowds in Sharjah and Dubai.
As Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United compete in the eliminator today, seeking a place in the Tuesday’s final against Quetta Gladiators, PSL Chairman Najam Sethi was excited in informing that all tickets for the final showdown have been sold out.
Indian cricketers may be part of next PSL edition- Sethi
DUBAI: Chairman Pakistan Super League (PSL) Najam Sethi has said that Indian players will also be invited to play PSL after Pak-India series takes place in near future.
While talking to media in Dubai, Sethi was of the opinion that PSL has gained much popularity among viewers and international players have also enjoyed it.
Sethi expressed disappointment over PTI chairman Imran Khan and PM Pakistan Nawaz Sharif for not attending PSL final over his invitation citing political activities.
“They should have showed up to watch PSL final, politics and sports should be kept separate.”
He further stated that despite the Asia Cup T20 opener on next day, cricket fans are still eyeing PSL final more than that, which is an open example of PSL’s popularity.
I'll believe it when I see it. BCCI doesn't send players to foreign leagues.
Thank you PSL for bringing back the game I once loved
I don't have much recollection of the 1992 World Cup. I was giving my Matriculation exams at the time, and most of the matches I watched were in between the gaps offered during breaks.
Still, the final was something everyone took out time for.
In between my father's insistence to go back to my room and study, I managed to catch whatever I could of the moments leading to the proudest moment in Pakistan's sports history.
The khabarnaama at 8 was postponed by PTV (a rare thing those days) and when it was aired, most of it was filled with moments celebrating the victory.
Over the next decade, I watched countless repeats of those matches and became a passionate follower of Pakistan cricket.
Then came the ignominious 1996 Bangalore defeat, the 1999 World Cup final disaster against Australia, the captaincy wars and the defeat against Ireland.
Watching scandal after scandal erupt on the national news-scape changed something inside me.
For me, cricket soon became that lost love of Urdu poetry that still evoked sorrowful yearning and a sense of loss. Admittedly, we did dance at the 2009 T20 victory, but I was certain, the kind of passion that was ignited after the 1992 victory could never come back.
So when the Pakistan Cricket Board announced the launch of Pakistan Super League (PSL), I was pessimistic at best. Yet another frenzied build up to the event and a kind of detached commitment by international players that we have all seen in the IPL.
'Cricket Mercenaries,' I dismissed some of the players present in every game.
How can you fight for a team you have no affiliation for?
How can money make you believe in something you don't subconsciously attach to?
How would the PSL be any different?
When it was time to pick sides, I was a tad confused. Some of the players I love most, like Mohammad Amir, were in Karachi. I have lived my all life in Lahore so Qalandars remained close to my heart.
Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz were the players that made me seriously consider Peshawar Zalmi. I was a PSL secular at most, respecting most teams, rooting for none.
At first, I thought perhaps most of my PTI friends would support the Zalmis. I posed a question on Facebook too. And sure enough, many of them were, but some were hanging on to other teams too.
I thought perhaps regional loyalties might entice people in choosing sides. Wrong! Many from Punjab were cheering for Quetta and some Karachiites were supporting Quetta Gladiators.
Some from Karachi were up for Islamabad United, just because Misbah was in it. What was the world coming to!
I thought it was extremely interesting that PSL was allowing us to ignore our parochial inclinations and go for something bigger.
It was a common consensus that Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar would lead the roster. No one gave Quetta any thought. Even the presence of Sir Vivian Richards was not enough to convince anyone.
To my surprise and to the surprise of most pundits, Quetta did well, amazingly well!
And then the tide seemed to be shifting. More and more people became enamoured with Quetta Gladiators — a bunch of underdogs thrown into a party that no one expected to win.
There is something in our fabric about cheering for the underdog. Sympathy? Hope? Perhaps an identification with the fact that we are all individuals who experienced being the underdog at some stage of our lives. It's in our DNA. It's a kind of identification that comes at the most basic level.
The final is still a long shot off and only time will tell who will 'rule the world' tomorrow.
Pakistan Super League may not be financially equivalent to the IPL or other big bashes, but it has got one thing: passion for cricket. And seeing how that has largely been amiss in the country, this alone is enough for prodigal fans like myself.
More important than the Quetta Gladiators' winning streak or the songs surrounding various teams is the passion that these teams brought to the game.
It is as if until the PSL the whole nation had been an underdog.
Deprived of playing in the IPL, deprived of playing on home soil, denounced for various scandals from chucking to ball tampering to match-fixing. It is as if they were all saying,
Look at us. There is more to us than what you hear on the newsreel.
Forget the poor form that Chris Gayle was in or the mediocre fielding that Lahore displayed in their matches. When Ehsan Adil bowled, it reminded me of our tape ball days when one over could change the scope of the match.
When Wahab Riaz bumped with his friend Ahmed Shehzad, many thought it unsportsmanlike-like, but it reminded me of all the days spent under the bright Lahore sun, fighting with our dear friends about whether a ball has nicked the bat or not.
When Kevin Pietersen jumped and hugged teammates, it shattered for me the Englishman image being aloof and haughty.
When Darren Sammy sat down, worried at a slipping game, I said to myself: Here is something different.
When I saw Sir Vivian Richard's tearful eyes after Quetta nearly squandered the lead, I thought this is not just business, there is something more here.
For those few minutes, we shared a bond of universal tear-hood: an ability to be united in happiness and sorrow.
An ability to be united by the common thread to sports.
Sir Vivian jumping on the ground has perhaps been the defining moment of the year for the game of cricket.
PSL may not be financially equivalent to the IPL or other big bashes, but it has got one thing: passion for cricket. And seeing how that has largely been amiss in the country, this passion alone is enough for prodigal fans like myself.
It has all the proportions of a Hollywood drama: an underdog rising from the bottom up, an unlikely coach uniting a team into a unit, a dance number at the most inopportune time (remember Ahmed Shehzad?), the fight between two bosses (Lahore and Karachi) and the triumph of the son of a channay wala (Bismillah Khan).
Thank you PSL, for bringing back the game I once loved.
PSL has been a very good success story, trending non-stop in Pakistan.
Najam Sethi aims to host PSL games in Pakistan
Najam Sethi, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, has acknowledged that he wants a few matches of the next edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) to be played in Pakistan.
Sethi said he is in touch with Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, and wants the Commonwealth sides to travel to the country and play a few games.
"We are in touch with Giles Clarke, president of the England and Wales Cricket Board, because we feel if we can have the Commonwealth side play in Pakistan than we can also have some matches of the second edition of PSL in Pakistan as well," he said on Tuesday (February 23). "If that happens it will break the ice for us and we can also have few matches of the PSL in Pakistan next edition.
"The PSL has generated so much interest not only in Pakistan but in other countries as well. It has been a big boost for us."
A number of top teams have refused to tour Pakistan after a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009. However, Zimbabwe toured Pakistan last year to play three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals.
Sarwar Salman Butt, project director of PSL, said that the Pakistan board has invested USD 20 million in the league. "The league has been a success and they are good chances some of the franchises will go close to the break even after the first edition while some will not. The PCB is also very close to breaking even."
Is the PSL delivering?
When the idea of the Pakistan Super League was first floated, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), from the very start, promised the delivery of a well-orchestrated and efficiently-managed tournament. But was it able to keep its promise?
Let us suppose that there are only two answers here — ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Also, let us define the variables which can check the effectiveness of the event — the interest of people, attendance in stadiums, quality of matches and a chance for the young Pakistani players to show their cricketing abilities.
The scale automatically tilts towards the people who say that the PSL delivered when taking into account the last variable — the chance for emerging players to put up a show. Players like all-rounder Muhammad Nawaz and left-arm pacer Rumman Raees owe their selection in the World Twenty20 squad to the PSL. Other performers such as all-rounder Muhammad Asghar can look forward to a promising future as well. A lot of other domestic performers who couldn’t enjoy massive audiences in Pakistan were able to perform in front of the UAE crowd.
If we analyse the quality of the matches, then yes, at the start of the tournament, low-scoring matches did bore the audience. Even the opening ceremony saw only West Indian players dancing alongside Sean Paul while Ali Zafar came in towards the end to save the day with a charismatic performance. But as the tournament moved forward, close finishes and blistering cameos started offering feasts to the eyes of onlookers — another point in the PCB and PSL management’s favour.
Conversely, attendance was the only flaw during the league matches. The international players participating in the PSL, who are used to playing in front of huge audiences during the Indian Premier League, Big Bash and even Caribbean Premier League, were not disappointed, but sympathised with the Pakistani cricket fans for not being able to host their own league on their home ground. Moreover, the PSL was targeting the expats in the UAE, who came to support the teams and the event, but during the double-headers the attendance remained relatively low, one point in favour of the naysayers.
In the end, if we want to calculate the interest level or be technically specific, we need to look at the engagement of the TV audience and the Twitter trends in Pakistan, and that gives us a clear verdict in favour of the PSL. During each match, the top Twitter trend in Pakistan was always the PSL. Ramiz Raja also said while commentating that the Karachi versus Lahore encounter saw a TV audience larger than the 2015 World Cup Pakistan-India match. The aye-sayers beat the naysayers 3-1.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2016.
WEALTHIEST TEAMS OF PSL, EARLIEST TO DEPART
Karachi and Lahore-the top most populous cities of Pakistan were also the two whose teams were the most spent at during the first edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), played in Dubai and Sharjah.
But the tale doesn’t end here. These two teams, representing the two of the most significant cities of the country by the names of Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings, were also the first two to exit the tournament. Their performance, apart from some rare instances of brilliance, was mostly lackluster as they were defeated on multiple times by other competing teams who were underrated.
This almost certainly proves that, at times, spending too much money on your side, buying some big hitters of the cricket ball at the auction and having some heart-pumping promos for your team is not necessarily going to give your team an advantage if the playing eleven fail to perform in the ground. Both sides were endorsed by two of the top media conglomerates of the country and other multi-national corporations (MNCs).
So where did it go wrong for Lahore and Karachi?
Lahore Qalandars did not have a threatening bowling attack at all. They scored above 200 runs against Quetta Gladiators in one match and ended up losing it, contrary to what most of us were expecting. Apart from the bowling, one of the most highlighted players of the tournament, Chris Gayle – an import from the West Indies, included as an opener by the Qalandars, failed to fire in the initial two games. As Gayle’s teammates watched his stumps fly out of the ground, their hopes of making any significant contribution with the bat also seemed to have diminished that very instance.
Karachi did make a positive start to the tournament but lost track of things somewhere in the middle and their performance in the second playoff that they played against Islamabad United proved to be a nightmare as they failed to perform, both with the bat and with the ball. Before that match, there was even a controversy regarding the captaincy of the side as Shoaib Malik, who led the team throughout the tournament was sidelined and Ravi Bopara was made the leader of the pack for that particular game.
Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi, led by Sarfraz Ahmed and Shahid Afridi respectively, showed pure class in the tournament. Everyone expected a PSL final between these two sides as they seemed to be invincible but out of the blue came Misbah-ul-Haq’s Islamabad United (another underrated team) and took the entire stage with their brilliant performance in the second and third playoff, defeating Kings and Zalmi respectively, knocking them out of the tournament and are all set to lock horns with the Gladiators on February 23 for the final.
As the PSL is almost over, it has certainly left us with many moments to cherish and has brought forth many new, talented players who would have certainly made an impression upon the selectors of the Pakistani cricket team. Let us be optimistic for more editions of the PSL to follow this formidable start and for keeping this tradition alive. And that one day these matches will not be happening in Dubai Sports City or Sharjah Cricket Ground but in the cricket stadiums of our own country, in our own conditions, among our own crowds.
Love it...Moody would easily fit in back home, in Miawali lol
ARY Digital Network President Salman Iqbal congratulates Islamabad United over winning PSL
KARACHI: President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ARY Digital Network and owner of Karachi Kings Salman Iqbal congratulated Islamabad United on winning the inaugural edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Islamabad United beat Quetta Gladiators to win the first ever Pakistan Super League.
Mr. Salman Iqbal congratulated the Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PSL President Najam Sethi and Chairman PCB Shahryar Khan on organizing the cricketing tournament successfully.
Mr. Iqbal also said that the owners of all the franchises deserve to be congratulated for making the cricket league so popular with their efforts.
He said that ARY has been on the forefront in making PSL a success story since day one of the event. “The ARY Digital Network will continue playing its role for promotion of cricket in Pakistan”, he added.
PM hails PCB on successful execution of PSL
ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday congratulated Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on successful arrangements and execution of Pakistan Super League, private TV channel reported.
The prime minister also extended his heartfelt congratulations to all participating players and teams for enthusiastically playing throughout the tournament. He said that the PSL had provided an excellent opportunity of rejoicing to cricket lovers in Pakistan.
Nawaz said that the government was supportive of all such healthy sporting initiatives which helped in highlighting a positive image of Pakistan. He appreciated the role and efforts of PCB Chairman Shahryar Ahmed Khan and Najam Sethi and all those who played a role in successfully arranging the event.
I think more credit should go guys in the trenches, nobody even knows the project manager or the hilarious media manager. Even the DJ they brought was awesome. They need more recognition while Sethi and Shehryar go around thumping their chests.
PSL wins hearts right down to the last man
Dubai: The Pakistan Super League (PSL) concluded at Dubai International Stadium with a colourful closing ceremony after 20 days of high-octane cricket at the Dubai International Stadium. Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United later battled it out in the final for the glittering crystal trophy designed by Swarovski.
The league, which started off amid doubts about its likely impact since it was being held outside Pakistan, turned out to be a whopping success. All the 23 matches leading to the final produced cricket of the highest standard, while the closing ceremony, complete with fireworks and entertainment, were the reflection of Pakistan cricket’s will to succeed.
A packed stadium watched most of the matches, including the final, suggesting that the tournament may go on to become a permanent fixture in the UAE’s cricket calendar. A day before the final, the PCB had to announce that all tickets were sold out and even requested fans not to try to get into the stadium in case they did not have tickets. During the matches at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, cricket fans almost created a traffic jam as they thronged streets enxious to get tickets.
It was a great opportunity for Pakistan players to share the dressing room with big names like Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakkara and Darren Sammy and play alongside them. Even the international stars were impressed by the Pakistan cricketers’ enthusiasm.
Pietersen, who turned out for Quetta in the final, said earlier: “I have been very impressed with how they trained while watching them in practice and realised how competitive they have been. Our guys in the team are certainly full of questions. In dressing room, on team bus, they all ask questions about batting and bowling. I liked associating with these youngsters.”
Najam Sethi, the chairman of the PCB, said: “We have shown the world we could stage a top class league. It has generated so much interest not only in Pakistan but in other countries as well. It has given us a huge boost.”
Karachi Kings coach Mickey Arthur hailed the PSL as a fantastic experience. “The organisation and quality of cricket was superb. We don’t really know what is going on back in Pakistan but all the reports we have been getting have been unbelievably positive. If this competition was held in Pakistan, it would have been overwhelming. The standard of the cricket in this league has been particularly high and this competition will go from strength to strength.”
England’s Ravi Bopara, who gave a sterling performance for the Karachi Kings, said: “PSL is right up there. This has been the second highest in standard after IPL. It has been a fantastic competition, one of the most enjoyable for me.”
Bopara’s comment was echoed by all the foreign stars who played in the PSL’s inaugural edition.
Pakistan Super League taste success in the UAE
Pakistan's inaugural national cricket league has been an unexpected success, even though all the matches have been played in the UAE.
Since the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was announced last September, the country's cricket board has sold five franchises for $93 million and attracted players from 11 different countries.
They include big names like West Indies batsman Chris Gayle and former internationals Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka and England's Kevin Pietersen.
The biggest surprise, however, has been the response from Pakistan's public.
Since matches began in the UAE on Feb. 4, national television viewing figures have been higher than for the 2015 World Cup, with 55 percent of Pakistan's TV-watching public tuning into the tournament at peak times.
"Big businesses bought the franchises, millions of people tuned in even though the matches aren't in Pakistan, and our own young cricketers are getting a chance to rub shoulders with giants," PSL chairman Najam Sethi told Reuters.
"This is the most extraordinary moment for Pakistani cricket since we were exiled from the international game."
It is still unclear when the PSL will be able to stage its first match on home soil.
Pakistan has been forced to play designated 'home' matches primarily in the UAE since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team.
Many see PSL as a turning-point, not just for the country's cash-strapped cricket board but also for young cricketers who have missed out on opportunities to interact with and learn from leading international players.
Among those who have bought the franchise are Habib Bank Limited, the country's biggest bank, Haier Group, a major electronics and home appliances company, and Qatar Oil. If all goes according to plan, PSL will generate revenues of approximately $50 million, according to cricket board estimates. A 10-year forecast sees the board making profits of $50-60 million.
Given the size of Pakistan's potential market of 180 million people, cricket experts say it is possible to imagine the PSL becoming one of the world's biggest cricket leagues.
Despite the success of PSL's first season, the real test for the cricket board will be if it can permanently bring the game back home.
Pakistan Cricket Board officials said before the season that the ruling body approached over a hundred cricketers to ask them if they would be willing to play on Pakistani soil. Not one of them agreed.
"Next year, we hope to have at least the opening and closing PSL matches on Pakistani soil," PSL Chairman Sethi said. "That is the dream."
PSL’s success is the victory of the fans: Sethi
Dubai: Najam Sethi, the chairman of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has termed the success of the PSL’s first edition as the victory of Pakistan and its fans.
“My team worked really hard with support from the people. There was no situation I had to point out to someone that he did not perform his duty. It has been a fantastic team effort. This is not a success of one person, but of the fans. It is the success of my team, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and in general the whole of Pakistan. We have shown to the world what we can do and how successful we can be. We put in all our hard work and sincerity,” said Sethi, who was faced with difficulties having to stage the event outside his country in neutral venue like UAE.
“We faced a number of hurdles. We don’t want to look back — instead we would like to focus on the future. Surely there would have been some mistakes here and there so we will study them carefully and to make it better next time,” he added.
“Our first mission was to kick off the tournament and make it a success and our next objective will be to slowly but surely take the tournament to Pakistan. This tournament belongs to Pakistan and its people and it should be held in Pakistan. We will work hard towards it and work has already started on that front. This tournament was a success because there were no major or minor mishaps during this period and everything worked according to our plan,” said Sethi, who believes the values of the franchises have doubled since the start of the tournament and that PCB will incur no financial losses this year.
When asked whether there are plans to include Indian players in the league next year, Sethi said: “India does not let their players play in any outside leagues. It is a known fact that they don’t allow them to play in the Big Bash and others and so I am not sure when Pakistan’s turn will come. It is their complete monopoly. I hope the Indian government permits the Indian players play against Pakistan.”
Sethi then went on say that efforts have begun to stage an India-Pakistan series in September. “We expect some good news in September and if does not happen, it doesn’t. India owes us two home series. They have to play us before we go and play them and this is PCB governing board’s decision. We hope India will play. When relationship between India and Pakistan improves politically, there will also be cricket between India and Pakistan. Firstly they have play our home series, be it Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or UAE, but not in India and so the entire revenue will be ours.”
Sethi revealed that he even tried to bring foreign players to play in Pakistan for the PSL by offering them money. “We had decided to give any amount of money for them to come and play in Pakistan, but to tell you the truth not one foreign player accepted this proposal. We had offered up to 300,000 dollars and we needed only around 25 foreign players, but we could not manage to get them. I cannot blame anyone for this situation, but it is purely our unfortunate circumstances. We are trying to redeem the situation and our government and soldiers are giving their best. The situation is much better than it was before and we may be able to host at least some PSL matches in Pakistan next year.”
Fans stayed awake to watch late PSL matches
Misbah said foreign players got a mild taste of what it would be like to play in a Pakistan competition during their three-week stay in the UAE, and hoped it will help bring international cricket back to Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board received an overwhelming response from millions of cricket-starved fans, even if it didn't succeed in spotting a new fast bowler or unearth a new batting star in its inaugural professional Twenty20 league in the UAE.
Islamabad United, led by Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq, defeated Quetta Gladiators by six wickets at a packed Dubai International Cricket Stadium late on Tuesday to conclude a three-week Pakistan Super League. Millions of fans stayed tuned in across Pakistan until after midnight throughout the tournament, which also featured teams including Pakistan Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi's Peshawar Zalmi, Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik-led Karachi Kings and Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali's Lahore Qalandars.
"It's our own league, I haven't missed a single ball of it," said Yousuf Mustafa, a 19-year-old college student in Islamabad. "PSL is more than a World Cup to me, I wished it could have been played in Pakistan."
An attack on the Sri Lankan team's bus in 2009 at Lahore shut the doors on Test nations touring Pakistan before Zimbabwe broke the deadlock by playing a limited-overs series - also in Lahore - last year. Islamabad United were rewarded when three of their unheralded players - Mohammad Sami, Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif - were drafted into Pakistan's squad for next month's World Twenty20 in India. Gladiators' uncapped left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz has also been labelled as one of the players to watch out for on spin-friendly wickets in India.
"You can see lots of youngsters coming up ... they are getting more chances to harness their skills and handle the pressure. That's what IPL did for India, that's what BPL did for Bangladesh," Misbah said.
Misbah said foreign players got a mild taste of what it would be like to play in a Pakistan competition during their three-week stay in the UAE, and hoped it will help bring international cricket back to Pakistan. "This is one way you can build confidence of players coming from Australia, England, West Indies and Bangladesh," he said. "When you get confidence and know from other players that Pakistan is a safer country, it will be possible for the Pakistan Cricket Board to bring back international cricket to Pakistan." - AP
The PSL spells good news for Pakistan cricket's future
When Kevin Pietersen tweets in Urdu, upset at losing a cricket match, seeking forgiveness from his team's fans, and promising to return even better next year, you know the Pakistan Super League has not only arrived but that it has made an instant impact.
When Wasim Akram and Dean Jones bounce for joy for that little known team called Islamabad United, and Viv Richards cuts a forlorn figure as a Quetta Gladiator, swallowing his pride at the rare experience of losing a final, you know that the PSL has not only arrived but that it has made a deeper emotional connection than mere T20 flimflam can.
Yes, we know, the PSL isn't perfect. But perfection has never been a requirement for success. It was enough that the Pakistan Cricket Board, defying its hard-earned reputation for amateurism, staged a professional competition to capture the zeitgeist. It was enough that the PSL was exhilarating, better than many other T20 franchises, with games of a high standard and abundant passion. We came, we saw, we fell in love.
In this way, the cricket delivered by the PSL was of a certain vintage. Pace bowlers excelled and took wickets. Batsmen offered flashes of genius, nothing more, just tantalising flashes. Great bowling and unpredictable batting: Pakistan's gift to the world. Catches were dropped, of course. Emotions ran high. Players crossed the line. Wahab Riaz barged Ahmed Shahzad. The gifts that keep giving, kept giving.
In other ways, the cricket was unrecognisable. International stars dedicated themselves to teams from places they might have struggled to place using Google. Standards were raised. Mettle was firmed up and tested. The lore of batting and bowling was shared generously. A full house in Dubai watched a domestic final between Islamabad and Quetta. Imagine that even a few months ago - would you have believed a sell-out for Islamabad and Quetta?
For Pakistan, it marks a potential rebirth of their limited-overs cricket, a fresh start to climb the rankings. A healthier domestic competition will spawn a stronger national team. A stronger national team raises interest in the PSL. T20 cricket improves the 50-overs game. It is a virtuous circle.
Now, the PSL was only possible outside Pakistan. The international players came because they felt safe in the UAE. We live in imperfect times, and in imperfect times pragmatism is more beneficial than any fanciful notion of bringing cricket home. Only daft patriotism and farcical arrogance will force this tournament to Pakistan in a hurry. The stars will not come to Pakistan, and without the stars, the PSL is a rump, another foot in the grave, a further nudge down the slope of declining standards.
Hats off, then, to the organisers, who played the right moves, realised their vision, and allowed luck to work in their favour with events on the field. A dominant Umar Akmal, strutting and explosive? A resurgent Mohammad Sami, direct and threatening? A failure from Shahzad, heroic and composed? Young players, forgotten players, seizing their moment? A winning hit by a captain with a point to prove? The script was so good it was almost perfect.
Pakistan still have much catching up to do, and one tournament doesn't fix a decade's worth of damage. But the sense of irrevocable decline has passed
This first PSL is the beginning of a process. The implications for Pakistan's World T20 campaign are unclear. Shahid Afridi's team is strong in pace bowling, especially with Sami's resurgence and Mohammad Amir's return. The batting we know is suspect, although Umar Akmal and Sharjeel Khan offer some power hitting. The greatest worry for a tournament in India, however, is the absence of a world-class spinner.
Hence, Pakistan still have much catching up to do, and one tournament doesn't fix a decade's worth of damage. But the sense of irrevocable decline has passed. The question of how long Pakistan cricket can be sustained without home internationals has begun to be addressed. This is the fightback, the start of a recovery.
You don't need to be a lover of T20 cricket to understand the significance of the PSL to Pakistan. You don't need to live for IPLs and Big Bashes to appreciate the importance of the PSL to Pakistan's cricket. You just need to realise that Pakistan is stricken by conflict and corrupt politicians. The country's cricket has been on its knees since the terrorist attacks of 2009, but it was collapsing for many years before that. You just need to value the exciting skills that Pakistan's cricketers bring to the international game to be grateful that those talents now have a chance to blossom afresh.
The question now is whether the PSL can hit these high notes again. Can you rely on the PCB to stick to a winning formula, other than perhaps introducing more teams? What if the personnel change? Might they steer a wonkier course?
Next year will be harder in any case. Once expectations have been raised, a benchmark set, disappointment and criticism come easily. But the PCB should not be deterred. The value of the PSL will only be realised if it can be repeated again and again. The league might seem like a short-term fix but it is a long-term investment in Pakistan cricket, a shot in arm for the prestige of a nation. The first PSL was an unforgettable party, a dance of joy in the desert, but love might be even better second time around.
The five best moments from the Pakistan Super League
The first Pakistan Super League was a successful affair. Here are the best moments from the tournament won by Islamabad United.
1. Best ball: Nawaz beats Hodge
In a tournament proliferated by left-arm spinners, it was inevitable that one of the breed would bowl the best ball. It came from Quetta Gladiators young allrounder Mohammad Nawaz and what a peach it was. It dipped inwards, gripped and then spun out, beating a defensive prod to hit off-stump. The victim was no less a batsman than Brad Hodge and it would have beaten him in any format.
2. Best mentor: Viv Richards instrumental
T he idea of a full-time mentor reeks of gimmickry. But in the PSL, t he two mentors who faced off in the final were more than just plus-ones to their teams. The careers of Viv Richards and Wasim Akram coincided briefly but here they faced off in a different battle. Akram was hands-on and involved in the building of his team. Richards was a cricket-whisperer, able to unleash from young players their talent and a sense of fearlessness. Akram won the league, but Richards edged this contest, if for nothing other than his victory celebrations.
3. Best batting: Umar Akmal’s four fifties
Batting was not easy — or at least not given the free rein it is elsewhere in the format — for parts of the tournament. But there were plenty of batsmen who had opportunity to show off their skills. Ravi Bopara, Tamim Iqbal early on and of course, Sharjeel Khan’s one innings. But in combining consistency with the bravura of modern batting, Umar Akmal was head and shoulders above anyone else. Shame he had such a poor team, but four fifties in just seven games and leading run-getter bodes well for Pakistan.
4. Best crowds: Sharjah shows up
Attendances at the grounds were always going to be an issue for the league, especially because it would invariably be compared to the packed stadiums of the Indian Premier League when it decamped here two seasons ago. Most weeknight crowds were low, which was expected given the lack of marketing in the run-in. But the first Friday at Sharjah was an adrenaline shot to the league, creating a stunning, nostalgic atmosphere. It was topped by the next Friday in Dubai, which, to boot, witnessed a terrific contest.
5. Best match: Quetta v Peshawar
Quetta and Peshawar Zalmi were the two best, most exciting sides in the league stage and in the first play-off, they combined the produce the final that the league never had. With a full Friday crowd, Quetta somehow scrapped the narrowest defense of a paltry total, proving that T20s need not be all about muscled fours and bludgeoned sixes. It did not knock Peshawar out on paper, thanks to the format, but it did mentally.
Wahab’s wrath and Sammy’s passion — The moments that defined PSL 2016
From outstanding individual performances to scuffles between players, and a million dollars for a catch in the crowd to emerging new stars, this month has been a roller coaster ride for all the cricket-starved fans in Pakistan.
The inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) could have been made garish by adding a couple of cheer leaders and extravagant programs like other leagues, but the electric atmosphere and quality cricket more than made up for the sideshows and made it stand out from its competition.
When jam-packed stadiums in Dubai and Sharjah echoed with slogans celebrating Pakistan, it was enough to melt our hearts and make the league something we could proudly own.
A standing ovation to all those stellar performances, nail-biting finishes, the few pinches of arguments and emerging players shining through and making their presence felt.
Cheers to the journey of PSL ’16!
Here are a few moments that revived our love for the game:
The oldest rivalry: When Karachi defeated Lahore
Who knew that the heat between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars would be more than the India-Pakistan battles?
It was in the build up to that anticipated clash that our Facebook newsfeeds busted ‘metro vs. chingchi’ jokes.
And when Amir took a hat-trick and Lendll Simmons in partnership with Shakib Al Hasan established a 109-run stand, our hearts pounded and erupted in jubilation.
Kings easily won the match and it looked like that it would go on to dominate the league, which unfortunately didn’t happen.
Aizaz Cheema: Last over champ, since 2012
A sporting hero is an individual capable of conjuring something extra when it really matters. The unheralded Cheema proved himself to be the ‘hero’ for Quetta Gladiators in a tense playoff against Peshawar Zalmi.
Eight required in six was elementary considering the batsman-dominated nature of the game today. Everybody had their money on Zalmi to emerge victorious, but then the unpredictable happened.
Cheema steamed in, hit the deck hard, and he gave us a repeat performance of that nerve-wracking last over in 2012 Asia Cup final when Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs.
Anger (mis)management: Wahab-Shehzad brawl proved there’s was a lot at stake
Just as movies are incomplete without a dash of fireworks, a cricket league too cannot make headlines without a bit of controversy and drama.
Remember Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir’s scuffle in the India-Pakistan ODI at Kanpur? And when Ishant Sharma got in the face of our very own Kamran Akmal?
The list of such quarrels is endless but there is nothing to feel bad about. It’s not cricket if there are no emotions or a little bit of banter.
The Wahab-Shehzad brawl offered a glimpse into how seriously the players were taking the PSL and it wasn’t just fun and games. There were emotions, rivalry and a thirst to tear apart oppositions.
Gul vs. Afridi next edition?
With Afridi’s daughters, we got emotional too
It was not the first time that Shahid Afridi’s daughters showed up for a match.
They were seen in the stands on several occasions before the PSL to show support to their father Mr. ‘Boom Boom’.
But this time we saw them teary-eye and biting their nails restlessly as the match against Quetta Gladiators turned upside down for Peshawar Zalmi.
It made us feel terrible for Zalmi.
All the fans were thrilled by Quetta’s impressive show yet can’t get over those innocent, sad faces.
Milestone for Quetta: Nabi inspires sensational win over Lahore
Quetta were termed the PSL’s ‘underdogs’ from day one, and with their gutsy performances they didn’t take long to become a neutral’s favourite.
Afghanistan Mohammad Nabi did it for Quetta against Qalandars and it was something about the understated player pulling off a sensation win which further enhanced the charm of the Gladiators.
The target on the scoreboard was mountainous. The first 200+ score was set to be chased down, and Quetta took it on rather bravely.
That match eventually sent a message across to other franchises that despite being a low-budget team and their ‘underdogs’ tag, the Quetta XI would not go down without a fight.
Nabi’s towering sixes and steely courage made way for the Gladiators to progress to the next stage in style.
Sharjeel Khan — United’s ‘silent warrior’
The proudest moment of PSL was undoubtedly Sharjeel’s century.
With the league dominated by foreign batsmen for the most part, Sharjeel smacking the first century of the PSL was a moment to cherish.
Not to mention it took away the game from title-favourites Zalmi. Courtesy his knock, Sharjeel received national call up for the forthcoming World T20 in India.
Loved Darren Sammy’s passion? What would you say about Sir Vivian Richards jumping in excitement?
How about Sangakkara apologising to Quetta’s dugout for not hanging in there for a little longer or Kevin Pietersen advising young Mohammad Nawaz on what length to bowl?
The PSL was dotted with several moments when cricket just felt like a universal force.
As Misbah-ul-Haq hit those winning runs to lift the title, Islamabad’s slogan rang true for all of us: united we win.
Pakistan had won, and with cricket we let go of our differences.
Anybody got the full segment? Looks interesting.
PSL brings in remarkable TV figures
More than half of Pakistan's TV-watching public tuned in for inaugural season of the PSL
The inaugural Pakistan Super League has been an unexpected success, even though all the matches were played in the United Arab Emirates due to security risks.
Since the first ever PSL T20 competition was announced last September, the country's cricket board has sold the five franchises for $US93 million ($A128 million) and attracted players from 11 countries.
Quick Single: Haddin's Islamabad United win PSL final
They include big names like Australians Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle as well as former international stars Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka and England's Kevin Pietersen.
The biggest surprise, however, has been the response from Pakistan's public.
Since matches began in the UAE on February 4, national television viewing figures have been higher than those for the 2015 World Cup, with 55 per cent of Pakistan's TV-watching public tuning into the tournament at peak times.
While figures aren't entirely accurate, it was estimated in 2013 that around two-thirds of Pakistan's 182 million people had access to cable television, which translates to around 65 million people tuning in to the PSL during peak periods
Fans gathered to watch the final on big screens placed in market places throughout major cities in a charged atmosphere previously only seen for Pakistan’s international matches.
And Tuesday's final Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators in Dubai - which Haddin's Islamabad won by six wickets - was sold out.
"Big businesses have bought the franchises, millions of people have tuned in even though the matches aren't in Pakistan, and our own young cricketers are getting a chance to rub shoulders with giants," PSL chairman Najam Sethi told Reuters.
"This is the most extraordinary moment for Pakistani cricket since we were exiled from the international game."
It is still unclear when the PSL will be able to stage its first match on home soil.
Pakistan has been forced to play designated 'home' matches primarily in the United Arab Emirates since 2009 after the Sri Lankan team was ambushed by Taliban militants while travelling from their hotel to Lahore's Gaddafi stadium for a Test match.
PSL to help improve quality of cricket: Zaheer Abbas
ISLAMABAD - International Cricket Council (ICC) president Zaheer Abbas termed Pakistan Super League (PSL) a mega success and congratulated PCB, Najam Sethi and others, who were involved in conducting the league.
Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas, known as Asian Bradman, said this during an exclusive interview with The Nation, and added Pakistani youngsters would reap countless benefits from the PSL in the years to come. “The PSL has provided a wonderful platform to Pakistani players, who might have learnt a lot while sharing dressing rooms and benches with world’s best cricketers during the league.” Zaheer said it could have not been possible for majority of Pakistani players to get such an exposure and chance to play alongside one of the best in the business. “Others leagues of the world took some time before getting popularity amongst the masses, but PSL gained popularity right from the start.”
Lauding the massive participation of crowd in making the PSL a huge success, the ICC president said: “The way, the crowds thronged the stadiums, was a very proud moment for each and every Pakistani.”
Terming Pakistan cricket future bright with the launch of PSL, Zaheer said: “The PCB will defiantly raise the participating teams to at least 8 next time around, as it will help in making the league more competitive and enthralling and also provide young and biding cricketers more chances to groom and excel by playing alongside top national and international players.
“I strongly recommend the PCB should include two or maximum three more teams in the league, but not more than that, otherwise, the quality will suffer and masses will not be able to watch action-packed matches,” he added.
About quality of the PSL, he said: “All the teams played quality cricket and it was hard to predict who would be the eventual winner of the first edition and that was the most interesting part of the PSL, otherwise, in top leagues, it is easy to guess the top and star-studied sides easily. I was very much present in UAE and witnessed PSL matches and also interacted with different foreign players, who were full of praise for the PSL and looked highly satisfied with the outcome of the first edition.”
Zaheer said the PSL was platform provided to the generation next. “I am quite sure that next year, more and more youngsters will be involved in PSL and same will be the case with the local coaches. Pakistan cricket is back on right track.”
“The PSL could have launched a bit earlier, but it’s never too late situation. Off course, there is always a room for improvement, so the PCB and PSL chairman Najam Sethi will surely overcome minor drawbacks witnessed during the first edition of the league,” he added.
The ICC president said: “My sincere wishes like every Pakistani is with Pakistan cricket and I hope and pray, the PSL will open floodgates of international cricket’s full-fledge return to Pakistan and next year or after that, we will be able to watch international stars playing the PSL in front of Pakistani fans that will be surely memorable occasion. I feel with the scarifies of our armed forces, the overall security situation of the country has improved a lot and things will be quite clear by the time the second edition of the PSL starts.” “In the next edition, we will be able to watch super stars from England, South Africa, Australia, West Indies and New Zealand coming in quite a few numbers. The way the PSL managed to make its way into common masses was itself a clear indication that it is bound to get more and more overwhelming response with each edition,” Zaheer concluded.
I think people are over playing and expecting too much of the PSL.
Yes it will have many benefits such as;
1) More money will be invested in player training via franchises.
2) Domestic players will get exposure to both public and camera pressure.
3) Domestic players will have a learning environment whereby they will rub shoulders with some of the best coaches and international players and picking up tips etc.
But bar that, underlining issues will remain, such as the inability to bat, field, the lack of pressure handling, the lack of fitness etc (the common issues since the last 15 years or so) due to a dysfunctional FC and List A structure at home (not to mention the school and club cricket), and the inability of local coaches due to a lack of understanding of cricket and the substandard pitches in Pakistan.
Too much is being expected of PSL.
What my time with the PSL taught me
Last week I returned from then incredible experience of working for the first edition of the PSL. I wanted to write about it without serving as a propagandist, and felt the best way to do so would be to discuss my own experiences.
Like many cricket writers who I consider my peers, I came to this profession largely via my couch and computer screen. Rather than being a journalist used to travelling on tours and visiting practice sessions, I was a fan who commented on what he saw on TV and in press conferences and the like. In many ways then, my experience of heading digital media for the PSL was one where I learnt a lot of things that journalists might already know of.
For starters, I was introduced to the "lobby culture", which might be common to all sports tours but seems to have evolved into a carnival when it involves Pakistani cricket. The lobby of the hotel the teams stayed in was constantly thronged by friends, fans, hangers-on, journalists, freeloaders and everyone in between. Anytime you walked outside, the large sofas would be abuzz with people involved in cricket. There were goosebump moments when a few big names ran into each other and shared some words. Mostly though, there were lots of selfies and requests for tickets, and old uncle types keeping an eye out for who was seen leaving or arriving with whom.
Various friends or acquaintances arrived every evening to take away players - particularly the Pakistani ones - for a night out, and everyone had an eye out for what kind of car arrived to pick them up. The emerging stars made do with a shiny saloon while the top internationals had snarling, brand-name vehicles awaiting them.
The fact that the PSL staff, teams and related personnel were staying in one hotel took the interactions to, at times, an uncomfortably intimate level. I was taking the lift down to breakfast one morning when the doors opened and I saw Kevin Pietersenin the flesh for the first time. His worried, side-glancing reaction made me realise that, in my sleep-deprived stupor, I had just stood there staring at him with my mouth gaping. Needless to say, KP avoided eye contact and waited for the next lift to show up.
No amount of PSL wins can undo the decades of damage and neglect faced by Quetta, but surely the residents of that lovely city must have enjoyed their countrymen taking their name for once not because of tragedy but as an acknowledgment of superiority.
The best ice-breakers in such situations are children, who are blissfully unaware of the conceits and insecurities of adults and usually just start pulling faces at you or asking their parents if they are there yet. One seasoned pro's two precocious infant daughters only needed a short ride in the lift to tell me what class they studied in, the role their dad would play in his team, and to ask what I was doing at the PSL.
I also got a chance to see how often the players poked fun at each other and remembered their past battles. In the shared net sessions batsmen teased bowlers on their bad matches and poor choice of sunglasses; the latter retorted by quoting the number of times they had got the batsman out by or pointing out his terrible taste in music. Players were making jokes of the sort you read in YouTube comments, but without the accompanying hysteria.
And in those moments, I was given a valuable lesson in humanising cricketers. We become so used to watching them and venting at them that we forget they too are normal people. Watching the underperforming batsman play with his kids or the beleaguered captain get a delighted hug from his wife reminds you of the burdens these people carry, and how much of an impact our love and hate must have on them.
There is no real way of measuring such an impact, and before this event, I hadn't given it much thought. But it became clear as the tournament progressed that intangibles matter far more than we realise. Perhaps the most important of these is identity for a team, an aspect that's both spurious and crucial.
Kevin Pietersen was a generous senior pro for Quetta Gladiators © Chris Whiteoak
Shahid Afridi doesn't boast a great record as a captain in T20s, yet Peshawar Zalmi started as a juggernaut thanks to, it seemed, their intrinsically local name and design, their decision to host students of the Army Public School, Peshawar for the tournament, their sharp branding, and of course, their core of Pashtun players. There were many cricketing reasons for their success, but the ones mentioned above seemed more applicable when even their virtual second-string side bossed Karachi Kings in one game.
Speaking of Karachi Kings, who knows how their dressing room full of stars would have coalesced had they won the two consecutive tight matches they lost. Instead, they ended the tournament marred by accusations of infighting and discontent as well as with the worst record, with no team identity worth celebrating.
The most heartening story of the value of identity was that of Quetta Gladiators. Owned by a beloved cricket philanthropist and staffed by less-heralded players, Gladiators struck gold with an extremely generous Pietersen, and the feel-good story of the year: Viv Richards mentoring in the dugout. Those two giants of the game, particularly King Viv, made a big show of playing down their aura and pumping the team with belief. It wasn't until the final was done that people began to see the weaknesses in a side that had come to be unlikely favourites as the tournament progressed.
But the best thing about Gladiators' success was the city they represented. No amount of PSL wins can undo the decades of damage and neglect faced by Quetta, but surely the residents of that lovely city will have enjoyed their countrymen taking their name for once not because of tragedy but in acknowledgment of their superiority. It was one of those rare moments where you see how the power of narrative in sports can subsume larger social and political ones for a brief while.
In the end, the narrative of the trophy also seemed pre-destined. More than a decade ago, Pakistan held its first domestic T20 competition, and Misbah-ul-Haq, then an unknown, led a Faisalabad side to the title. The same team then went on to win the first, and only, edition of a proto-Champions League trophy called the International 20:20 Club Championship. Misbah's life has gone through many changes since then, with Tests largely defining his zenith and ODIs his nadir. Yet there he was, defining the end of a remarkable career by once again being the first to lift a trophy in a new chapter for T20 cricket. Few deserved it more.
Ahmer Naqvi writes on cricket, music, film and pop culture. He appears on Journoeyes and Pace is Pace Yaar. @karachikhatmal
'PSL will reach its true potential when it comes to Pakistan'
Shoaib Naveed, PSL's project manager, talks about how the league overcame a lot of scepticism to emerge as a successful brand after its first season
Tell us about your journey from being a student blogger to becoming PSL's project manager.
When I last came on your podcast, I was blogging for pakpassion.com andDawn. I graduated from college in the USA. I randomly went to Sri Lanka [in 2011], where I sneaked into the press box. That was my first experience of interacting with cricketers live. I interned with the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association. I was also coaching junior cricket in a club in Auckland. From there, I covered the 2011-12 India-Australia series forDawn.
I enrolled in a Master's programme in sports management at Melbourne but when it comes to sports business, the US is light years ahead of everybody else. I transferred to Georgetown University [in Washington DC] two and half years ago. That was my entry into the world of commercial sports.
Your thesis turned into a position paper for the PCB, in terms of setting up the PSL.
I was working full-time for the NFL Players' Association and for Monumental Sports Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals, in the licensing and development department and the sponsorship department. Even though I was working in American sports, the dream was to get into cricket. It was a no-brainer that Pakistan needed a league of its own, but for various reasons, it hadn't been able to so far. So I wrote my position paper. I would like to believe that the position paper is something the PSL built towards.
In the position paper, you had suggested that half the games be played in Pakistan and half in the UAE.
The PCB were hesitant because they did not have experienced personnel to do a mega-event like the PSL. They wanted to outsource the project to a more experienced [operator], a model the Sri Lankan Premier League tried and failed. The Caribbean Premier League has tried that and it has been working for them, or at least till now. We had a strong sense that we should do this ourselves, because it would benefit Pakistan cricket more.
Outsourcing it to a third party might be easier, but it wouldn't serve the larger purpose - not just the commercial game but the growth of cricket as a business in this country and the grassroots development that would eventually come five to ten years down the line.
It took a bit of convincing but we brought on a pretty reputed company in Repucom to serve as global consultants on the project.
When was the decision made regarding the venues?
The first time, in 2012, the PCB decided to keep it completely local. We tried our best to get foreign players to Pakistan, but none were willing to play a single game in Pakistan. That has changed after this edition of the PSL. When I talked to the players or the commentators, there is this change in mindset where they might come for a game or two.
Did that mean that the decision to go outside of Pakistan was made for you?
The PSL and similar leagues are commercial products. It is actually the Gayles, the Watsons, the Pietersens that make the broadcasters and the sponsors go, "This is a project worth supporting" and open their purses. They are not willing to open up their purses to the same extent just for the Pakistani players. The PCB will stand to gain financially, if not in the first, surely in the second or third editions. You first try and convince foreign players to come to Pakistan.
"If you spend so much time in building a brand in the UAE, why not make it into a global league? Why not look at other markets like Sri Lanka or Bangladesh?"
Also, you have to convince your own security within Pakistan. The security given to Zimbabwe was mind-blowing. Lahore was shut down for a week, the main artery, where the Gaddafi Stadium is. You can't afford to do that for a month-long tournament. Financially, it is not possible to sustain for the PCB. The security agencies at that time were like, "Maybe we should reconsider doing the PSL in Pakistan for the first year."
One of the major problems with the PSL was that the brand we were building was from zero. If we had held the tournament in Pakistan and god forbid something had happened, or in its build-up, the entire tournament would have got cancelled.
At the end of the day, the league will reach its true potential when it comes to Pakistan. We are seeing the security situation improve over the past year and a half. The Zimbabwe tour was a testament to that. Given the interactions of the international players with our local players and the PSL team with the commentators, there is this sense that it belongs in Pakistan and we are willing to explore the option next year or from the third year.
A major factor now is the franchises. They built their own relationships with their players. Maybe they can do a better job with the PCB. The PCB has done a decent job with how they handled the international players. It was a major concern for us, about how the player payments were handled in the other leagues. We didn't want any of those issues in the PSL, because that damages the brand. We could see more international tours taking place in Pakistan, which is a possibility in this year itself. There are talks going on that other teams might come.
What were the problems you had to deal with as a project manager?
The scepticism within the board. I wouldn't say it was unwarranted. Having worked through the hurdles, you need some crazy people to get this thing through. The PCB were extremely strong in logistics and operational work. The PSL T20 team was able to supplement it in terms of the commercials, whatever the marketing we were allowed to do given the restraints, because we were a board that was not holding games at home.
Plus, there is this massive scepticism around the league. It's a general thing within the country with anything new and trying to reach for something big. It was being engulfed with, "That is not possible, what are you trying to do?"
One of the early criticisms was that you were conducting it in Dubai and the Masters Champions League (MCL) was running parallel to it and they had more visibility. Why wasn't there a push to make it more visible in Dubai?
The board of governors of the PCB - when we tried to get this project approved - provided a guideline that this should not be a loss-making project for the PCB. The financial model was based around that. UAE is extremely expensive in terms of getting the marketing campaign out there, like the MCL was doing. We did not care for what the MCL was doing, because, to us, our product was strong and it was with current cricketers. Pakistan cricketers had been playing in the UAE since the late '70s. This league was awaited by the fans since the IPL was launched.
In the UAE, people work six days a week, and the Dubai stadium is not easily accessible. Were there apprehensions of a lack of local support?
Absolutely. It is a city-based franchise tournament. Some of the crowds on weekdays have been extremely disappointing, more so than even I would have imagined. The turnouts we got in Sharjah have been beyond my imagination. Thefinal in Dubaiwas great, so wasPeshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators. That was a testament to the fact that Pakistan cricket has the strength to lure its fans anywhere in the world.
"The model right now is to refine what we have for the second year. In the third year, the addition of another team, and then maybe cap it at eight"
The major part of the spending comes from the broadcasters. The Pakistani sports broadcasting space is not ideal. We were airing PSL on all three Pakistan sports channels - PTV Sports, Ten Sports and Geo Super, all are local channels - and by leasing it from them and then selling their commercial airtime, bought from those channels, to the media agency. This is an arrangement I have not seen anywhere in the world, but these are the circumstances that we have to work with because the broadcasting space is not as mature as it is in the USA or India.
The BCCI or Team India brand is built by Star Sports, the IPL brand is built by Sony. It is not built by the BCCI. The major spending comes from the broadcasters and the sponsors. Given our broadcasting arrangements, this is not in the PCB's hands. It is a larger battle that needs to be fought in the long term for actual commercial strength to take hold in Pakistan. These are the things that people brush aside and don't realise when they say, "There should have been more exposure in terms of marketing. The PCB should have done more". The governing body's job is to sell the rights to the broadcaster and they and sponsors make the brand.
Some of the criticism was thought out, but most of it was just, "This league cannot happen. MCL is a much better product". Stuff like, "MCL names are based on star signs, what has the PCB done?" My friend told me that he was watching a show and this was one of the things they were discussing. To me, and to most Pakistan fans, it was actually a no-brainer that the PSL would be a success. Cricket is a unifying force. It is a cliché, but it is so in this country.
Given the short amount of time that we had, I am surprised we have been able to pull it off without major hiccup.
It is almost inevitable that there would be comparisons with the IPL on how the PSL is projected as a product. How do you walk the tight line where you have an existing model and you want to make it uniquely Pakistani?
I don't know if I can say "borrow", but you can't help but say that a league like this is not just cricket but also entertainment. The [camera] shots to the owners and the celebrity interviews are going to happen; the commercial strategic time-out, the amount of money a broadcaster is trying to get.
It is Pakistan cricket - it is a no-brainer that you were going to be successful. Why were you then getting low-balled like that?
There is a certain evolutionary process to sports broadcasting that has not occurred in the Pakistani market yet. A lot of that has to do with the state broadcaster and its stronghold. Those sort of controls have been broken in other markets, such as India, where the state broadcaster has come away from the market and the monopoly has subsided.
You need the uniquely Pakistani experience in the entertainment.
We tried the milestone truck - it was huge success with the fans. We did theanda[egg]; it wasn't supposed to be a duck, it was supposed to be ananda. I wanted to have more emphasis on music, because Pakistani people like a mix of music and cricket, which hopefully we will see from next season onwards. You can see music taking a prominent position in how the franchises are marketing themselves. Peshawar Zalmi has a whole album out and a lot of the songs are actually good. Lahore has two songs, Quetta has two songs, Islamabad has their own song, so does Karachi. All of them came up with sound tracks and did their own marketing. Kudos to them. I wasn't expecting the amount of marketing they pulled off in the short time. The franchises were sold in mid-December. They had barely a month and a half to get everything organised. Most of them were just getting the whole cricketing team together, let alone their marketing team.
The other criticism of the tournament is the fact that you had five franchises and you went through the entire tournament to eliminate one team.
Why were there five teams? You want to start small. The teams made sense in terms of how it was equally divided with each province getting its representation. We wouldn't have been able to fit in anything bigger than this in the time that was there, from Feb 4 to 23. There was a battle with the MCL, the New Zealand tour and the Asia Cup. The teams that qualified for the finals were the qualifiers for us. The playoffs are there because you need some amount of games that can give you commercial feasibility.
Basically, you have 80% of the teams going into the playoffs. In the NBA, for example, around 50% of the teams go into the playoffs.
It is two teams making it to the playoffs. That is how we look at it. If you just do the regular round and the top two qualifiers, the number of games is not enough for the media agency or the broadcasters.
"We did not care for what the MCL was doing, because to us our product was strong and it was with current cricketers"
Were there other options that you put on the table, where the top team goes to the final, two and three play each other and the qualifier goes to the finals and the best two teams play a best-of-three?
Yes, there were. The regular semi-final option was also considered. The strength of the league was the fact that there were no games that were not competitive or consequential. That was the power of both the format and the draft. The teams were of almost equal standard. You didn't have Karachi or Lahore being the more expensive teams, capable of getting the better players.
Has there been any talk of having more franchises, because cities like Lahore and Karachi can support more than one?
There are a lot of other cities who will want a team and have the population to deserve teams. Commercially, it comes to a point where it makes more sense to build the brand and then to derive commercial gain from it by selling those teams at a higher rate. That eventually helps the league and Pakistan cricket, because the money is coming back in and getting divided in the central pool. Then it goes to the PCB and can be spent on domestic cricket and on the grassroots development. But the model right now is to refine what we have for the second year. In the third year, the addition of another team, and then maybe cap it at eight.
Why were there no broadcasters in India?
Sony was showing the MCL. Star Sports already had too much on their plate. The values given by the broadcasters would have set a poor precedent for the PSL and would have resulted in setting the bar too low.
Where do you see the league in four to five years? Do you envision the PSL unfolding according to what you wrote in your thesis?
I have a personal bias towards this, but I would like my thesis to kick in. If you spend so much time and effort in building a brand in a foreign country and there is a following for the league and a population willing to consume it, you should take advantage of it. Don't think small, think big. The PSL could potentially be the second-biggest league after the IPL.
If you spend so much time in building a brand in the UAE, why not make it into a global league? Maybe not restrict it to just UAE, why not look at other markets, like Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. It all depends on where cricket goes from here, where the ICC is taking it. We are already seeing certain shifts happening within the ICC with the Big Three. It depends on those things as well.