Team captains and officials with Wasim Akram and Najm Sethi Image Credit: Courtesy: PSL

Dubai: It will be a proverbial red letter day for Pakistan cricket when the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) commences on Thursday amid expectations of it making a mark as one of the world’s best Twenty20 leagues.

Five top teams — Islamabad United, Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators — will battle for the crown at the Dubai and Sharjah cricket stadiums until February 24.

Najam Sethi, chairman of the PSL, explained at length the vision of this tournament, saying: “It is going to be the first major development in Pakistan cricket in the last 20 years after hosting the World Cup in 1996. This is going to be a gateway to bring international cricket back to Pakistan.”

The tournament will create an opportunity for Pakistan’s domestic cricketers — who have not been part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) after it’s first edition — to play alongside some top international names like Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle, Brad Haddin, Kumar Sangakkara and Dwayne Bravo.

With legends like Viv Richards and Wasim Akram as mentors, and coaches like Dean Jones and Paddy Upton for different teams, the tournament is expected to boost the skill-sets of players.

“This league going to bring our Pakistani cricketers to be [in] touch with the big guys in Twenty20. We are weak in the Twenty20 and this will give them an opportunity to imbibe the best professional techniques, mannerisms and conduct and all the rest by rubbing shoulders with these people — both in terms of tactics, strategy, behaviour and conduct,” said Sethi.

Keeping the league clean

The PSL is hoping to become the biggest league after the IPL in four years’ time and to ensure that, organisers are making all efforts to keep it clean.

“We are going to follow international best practices. That is why we have Repucom [international consultants] come in and they have told us that we have to follow international best practices and we cannot do things which led to the failure of other leagues,” said Sethi.

“After India, the greatest number of eyeballs is in Pakistan. Pakistanis [at] home and abroad... are 200 million [in number] and going strong and this market technically is passionate and crazy about cricket. If [there is] anything Pakistan is crazy about, [it] is cricket, food and music. [The] PSL brings all these together [and] in the event we [are] launching it with music, it will have food and cricket. I am hoping that in three to four years’ time, this will be the biggest league after the IPL.”

Big boost

For Pakistan cricketers, the timing of this league has come as a big boost as they feel a good performance here can win them a place in the Pakistan national team ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 Cup.

Though there are concerns on whether there will be a large turnout at the UAE venues, Sethi feels that the league can reach millions through television.

“If the PSL was held in Pakistan, we would have had to have two stadiums to bring in the spectators. Since we are hosting it here, broadcasting rights are most important and gate money is not the most important thing. We are going to encourage people to come and watch it because it is good for the rest of the world to know that even in a place like UAE, people are actually coming to the stadium to watch,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the people who are really going to pay for the PSL are back home [and] they will be glued to their TV screens. We will do live streaming on our websites and we are having three channels which will be [broadcasting] to Pakistan fans [and these are] Ten sports, Geo and PTV,” he said.

“Moreover, Pakistanis in most countries will be able to follow it through local channels and in the Middle East it will be OSN and in the UK, Prime TV.”


Fact box: Teams

Peshawar Zalmi: Shahid Afridi (Captain) Wahab Riaz, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Junaid Khan, Aamer Yamin, Imran Khan Jr, Shahid Yousuf, Abdur Rahman, Musadiq Ahmad, Hassan Ali, Chris Jordan (England), Jim Allenby (England), Dawid Malan (England), Darren Sammy (West Indies), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh); Supplementary: Brad Hodge (Australia), Isarullah, Taj Wall


Karachi Kings: Shoaib Malek (Captain) Sohail Tanvir, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Bilawal Bhatti, Iftikhar Ahmad, Nauman Anwar, Osama Mir, Sohail Khan, Mir Hamza, Saifullah Bangash, Shakib Al Hasan (Bangaldesh), Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh), Ravi Bopara (England), James Vince (England), Lendl Simmons (West Indies); Supplementary: Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka), Shahzaib Hassan, Fawad Alam


Islamabad United: Misbah-ul-Haq (Captain) Mohammad Irfan, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Sami, Khalid Latif, Babar Azam, Imran Khalid, Kamran Gulam, Umar Amin, Rumman Raees, Amad Butt, Shane Watson (Australia), Brad Haddin (Australia), Andre Russell (West Indies), Samuel Badree (West Indies), Sam Billings (England); Supplementary: Saeed Ajmal, Ashar Zaidi, Umar Siddiq


Lahore Qalandars: Azhar Ali (Captain) Omar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Sohaib Maqsood, Zafar Gohar, Hammad Azam, Zia-ul-Haq, Zohaib Khan, Azhar Ali, Naved Yasin, Adnan Rasool, Chris Gayle (West Indies), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Kevon Cooper (West Indies), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh), Cameron Delport (South Africa); Supplementary: Abdul Razzaq, Mukhtar Ahmad, Ehsan Adil, Imran Butt


Quetta Gladiators: Sarfraz Ahmad (Captain) Ahmed Shahzad, Anwar Ali, Zulfiqar Babar, Omar Gul, Bilal Asif, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Nawaz, Sa’ad Nasim, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Bismillah Khan, Kevin Pietersen (England), Luke Wright (England), Jason Holder (West Indies), Elton Chigumbura (Zimbabwe), Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan); Supplementary: Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Aizaz Cheema, Ramiz Raja Jr


Today’s match: Islamabad United vs Quetta Gladiators.

Start: 8pm at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Telecast: OSN Sports