PSL-Karachi Kings
Karachi Kings team members celebrate with the PSL trophy in November last year. Image Credit: AFP file

The sixth edition of HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL), an event which had been instrumental in gradually ushering international cricket back in the country, will get under way on Saturday with defending champions Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators facing each other at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Unlike last year when the event was spread over four cities: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan, it will be restricted to the first two with National Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium hosting the matches in view of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The brand, from a tentative start in it’s second home UAE in 2015, has come a long way and has become Pakistan’s biggest sporting brand. A 34-match extravaganza, comprising of the best available Pakistan stars and a selection of top international players, including the 'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle, will conclude on March 22.

In a welcome development for the fans, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has announced earlier this month that 20 per cent audiences can attend the league matches. The decision means around 7,500 ticketed spectators will be allowed to watch matches in Karachi per match day, while around 5,500 will be able to attend each match day at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

“During the course of the event, the NCOC and the PCB will continue to work together and monitor the situation before a decision to increase crowd numbers for the three play-offs and the final is made,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement.

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said he was “thankful to the NCOC for trusting the PCB and allowing limited fans to watch live action of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2021. This is an endorsement that the PCB is an institution which is capable of planning and then successfully implementing Covid-19 SOPs during its marquee event being staged in Pakistan for the second successive year.”

“Fans are the PCB’s biggest asset and we are delighted that no matter a small number, but some will be able to have access to the matches,” he added.