Fan power. A huge turnout is expected at the Pakistan Super League tournament to be held in Dubai and Sharjah Image Credit: GN Archive

DUBAI Fans of Pakistani cricket in the UAE say they can’t wait for the start of the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) that gets underway on Thursday.

When the first ball of the match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators is bowled under the lights of Dubai International Cricket Stadium at 10pm, many say, it will be the end of a long wait for a home-grown international cricket tournament.

Cricket crazy nation

“I am glad it is upon us finally. We had been hearing talks for ages and as fans of a cricket crazy nation, had been waiting patiently only to see other Test playing nations like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh start their own T20 tournaments. Now we have one of our own too,” said Dubai-based entrepreneur and cricket fan Ammar Akhtar, 31, who will be rooting for the team from his hometown Karachi Kings led by former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik and boosted by top international all-rounders like Tillakaratne Dilshan and Shakib Al Hasan.

For Danish Pasha, 34, also from Karachi, the new five-team tournament means a true celebration of everything Pakistan. “I don’t follow cricket as I used to before but the buzz and the excitement hasn’t escaped me. The song Karachi Jeetay Gaa (Karachi will win) by Pakistani singer-songwriter Ali Azmat has almost become my anthem since its grand launch last month at the National Stadium in Karachi,” said Pasha, who works on sales manager of an automotive company in Dubai.

The city of Bahawalpur from where Arshad Bashir, 31, is, doesn’t even have a team of their own in the two-legged round-robin tournament. Yet, the Dubai web developer is excited to see his countrymen rub shoulders with top international stars in T20 cricket – the shortest and easily the most entertaining format of the game.

“I may not be able to watch the matches from inside the stadium but will definitely keep an eye on the results,” said Bashir who will be following the fortunes of Islamabad United led by Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq and has in its ranks names like Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson and legend Wasim Akram as the team director.

University student Mariam Afridi, 24, makes no bones about her love for Peshawar Zalmi, the team that represents the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where she is from.

“It will be a matter of immense pride to see our hero, our man Shahid Afridi walk out to lead our team at such a big stage,” she said, adding a victory will be a fitting tribute to the 132 school children who lost their lives in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre, Pakistan’s deadliest terrorist attack.