ISLAMABAD: A return to its native, albeit rightful, soil and hiring of more frontline players from the contemporary cricket scene are the tricky, yet tough, challenges to face the Pakistan Super League when its second edition is held next year.
Pakistan Cricket Board can heave a sigh of relief at the encouraging success, after a somewhat sluggish start, of inaugural edition of PSL held in UAE, culminating in Islamabad United lifting the title with victory over Quetta Gladiators in the final, earning the winners $ one million in prize money.
Perhaps a few more franchises could be added to the five-team format that featured in the inaugural edition which took a slow start but attracted a wide TV audience as well as spectators, mostly expatriates from Pakistan, who flocked to the Stadiums at Dubai and Sharjah (UAE) in the later stages of the inaugural competition.
It will be to the huge credit of PCB should the 2nd edition of PSL be held at the grounds of Pakistan, that have not seen the foreign teams come over since 2009, when the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked in Lahore, to regale the cricket-crazy local public.
The need to hold a t20 tournament on the pattern of similar competitions in countries like India, Australia, West Indies, Bangladesh etc. was being felt since long but insistence of foreign cricketers to play only at neutral venues was a major hurdle in realising this idea.
PCB did a fantastic job by showing its organisational skills to hold the tournament in UAE, recruiting as many as 29 foreign players who featured in the five franchises, with top-tier players getting US $ 200,000 salaries. which also included Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi.
But the foreign players mostly included, with two or three exceptions like Chris Gayle or Shane Watson, who played cricket for their respective national squads in yesteryears.
It will be an herculean task for the PCB to hire frontline players, like they do in IPL, from the contemporary national squads, to play in the PSL franchises next year.
For this purpose, PCB will have to further raise the financial profile of the tournament although it had already spent US $ 93 million, across 10 years, in cobbling together the five franchises which were part of the inaugural edition.
Still, the tournament proved a roaring success at the fag end of its Feb 4-23 duration with 55 % of Pakistan’s TV-viewing public tuning in to the matches, according to a published report.
Besides other aspects of the bonanza, “Our own young cricketers got a chance to rub shoulders with giants”PSL Chairman Najam Sethi was quoted as saying.
However, the majority of foreign “giants” was former Test cricketers such as Kevin Pietersen of England, Dwayne Smith of West Indies and Haddin of Australia.
Pakistan T20 skipper Shahid Afridi agrees that cut-throat competions like PSL would help groom budding cricketers of Pakistan as perhaps IPL had performed this task in India.
“Our upcoming players will certainly have their skills polished through PSL if not instantly, then perhaps over the coming years”, he said.
“Next year, we hope to have at least the opening and closing PSL Matches on Pakistani soil”, Najam Sethi said.