Imran Tahir celebrates with Multan Sultans teammates after completing his hat-trick during the PSL clash against Quetta Gladiators at Sharjah International Cricket Stadium during PSL 2018. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Packed seats, painted faces and chants of fan favourite teams have returned as Pakistan Super League starts on February 15 and expatriates from the country seem to be very excited.

Many like Tariq Rasheed, a shipping and logistics manager based in Dubai and Haniyah Irfan, a finance head in a branding firm also based in Dubai are “for sure” going to watch matches that will be held in the UAE.

Besides great sports entertainment, the pleasant weather is another incentive for cricket fans to be flocking from around the UAE and different parts of the world to attend the matches.

Team Peshawar Zalmi seems to be a fan favourite. Qasim Ali, a Dubai resident believes that the team has a good mix of international players and those coming from Pakistan. “They have an excellent grooming program and they support local [Pakistani] players a lot,” the 24 year-old said.

They have an excellent grooming program and they support local [Pakistani] players a lot.

- Qasim Ali

Whereas, Rasheed said he supports the bunch because of how “humble” they are. “They don’t have an aggressive marketing campaign, they would rather show their talent through their skills. In cricket, the game should be the forefront,” the 36-year old said.

In cricket, the game should be the forefront.

- Tariq Rasheed

Whereas, Hamdan Shahid Afridi, a demand planner for a company in Dubai, simply supports the team because he’s from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region in Pakistan and is looking forward to attending one of the matches the team would be playing in.

Another team that seems to have a big fan following are the Karachi Kings. Syed Irfan Hussaini, a CEO of a firm in the UAE, and Haniyah Irfan are supporting the team because they belong to the biggest city in Pakistan.

However, Irfan admits that although she is supporting Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars seems to be “the strongest team this season”.

South Africa’s legendary batsman AB De Villiers who is part of the Lahore Qalandars team is a player most cricket enthusiasts are looking forward to watching during the tournament.

While most people deemed him the “best player” of the series, Irfan said, “he is the biggest reason I think Lahore Qalandars will probably win”.

He [AB De Villiers] is the biggest reason I think Lahore Qalandars will probably win.

- Haniyah Irfan

Large crowds

Several cricket fans said that this season will feature competitive matches. “Since the teams are great, competitiveness will go up and result in more exciting games. More Super Overs can be played that will attract large crowds,” said Qasim Ali.

Due to the large number of cricket fans from Pakistan and other countries residing in the UAE, Afridi has one request – to have matches at convenient timings.

“A large number of cricket fans from Pakistan are working in blue-collar jobs here and attending matches during the day might be difficult, I am hoping all of the matches are during the night and on weekends. This will result in a large crowd turn out,” he said.

I am hoping all of the matches are during the night and on weekends.

- Hamdan Shahid Afridi

Great step for cricket in Pakistan

The tournament will bring international cricket back to Pakistan, cricket fanatics from the country believe. “Increasingly more PSL matches are being held in Pakistan and that is a good sign,” said Syed Irfan Hussaini.

The tournament provides a platform for local talent from the South Asian nation.

“New players are brought and given a chance to play with international players. They learn how to handle the pressure and get practice,” said Tariq Rasheed.

Sports enthusiasts also said that the series brings an overall “healthy environment” for cricket fans. “You just support cricket, this is the good part about cricket leagues such as the IPL [Indian Premier League] and PSL,” added Hussaini.

“You just support cricket, this is the good part about cricket leagues such as the IPL [Indian Premier League] and PSL.

- Syed Irfan Hussaini