Dubai: If the enthralling opening ceremony of the Pakistan Super League IV on Thursday evening is any indication, then the tournament looks set to live up to its theme song titled ‘Khel Deewano ka’ (A Game for the Lovers) this season.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, comprising a largely family crowd of expats, welcomed the path-breaking T20 league once again before reigning champions Islamabad United and Lahore Qalanders set the ball rolling late into the evening.
The crowd rocked to the beat of the number belted out by Fawad Khan, the Pakistan film star who enjoys a good share of fanfare across the border, members of the iconic Sufi rock group Junoon, Aima Baig and Shuja Haider along with Marcia Barrett of erstwhile Boney M.
The news of rapper Pitbull failing to turn up for the concert due to a snag in his scheduled flight failed to make any dent in the overall appeal of the concert — which was easily the biggest so far.
Shaikh Nahyan Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Chairman of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), declared the tournament open in the presence of the top brass of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), including chairman Ehsan Mani.
A total of 26 matches of the first stage of PSL will be played across the three international venues of the UAE for the first time in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi — before the last eight matches, including the final, moves to Pakistan.
The bigger and better ceremony has set the tone for the tournament all right — which will have more eyeballs with no significant international cricket series coming in the way — but the future of the league holds a few posers for the PSL fans in the UAE. It was in late January when Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Information, told the media during an official visit to Dubai that the whole tournament will be shifted to Pakistan in 2020.
“I urge all Pakistanis living in the UAE to go and fill the stadium as it will be the last occasion the tournament is being held here,” he said.
The announcement had set off the speculation among the UAE fans, though well informed sources feel that the PCB may be hard pressed to make such a radical change so soon.
The plan, as of now, seems to further increase the number of matches from eight to 16 in Pakistan next year and test the waters.
The two venues — Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore and National Stadium in Karachi are ready to host the matches while plans are afoot to spruce up the one in Rawalpindi to meet with the demand of increased matches in future.
A cross section of expat fans whom Gulf News spoke to are mentally ready to see the tournament being gradually shifted to Pakistan — with the logistics and security situation permitting.
“It’s an annual opportunity for me and my wife try to make it to as many matches as possible. However, at the end of the day the tournament belongs to Pakistan board and should be staged there if possible,” said Mohammad Kashif of Ajman, a former local cricketer himself.
For Omer Shaikh, who turned up with his family for the opening day, a possible complete shift of venue poses a big dilemma. While he does not mind the tournament being shifted, his seven-year-old son — armed with a Pakistan flag — has different views. “It should stay here,” he says coyly.
It seems the tournament has now become as much the UAE’s as it’s for Pakistan!
In what’s a major first, IMG Reliance — a subsidiary of the Reliance Group of Industries — has acquired the broadcasting rights of the PSL this year. The telecast will witness never-before specs in terms of coverage with a whopping 33 cameras in use — including ultra motion, super-slow motion cameras, a buggy cam, drones, a spider cam and jib.