KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has announced that all eight matches of HBL PSL would be played at the National Stadium in Karachi. This has resulted in a tweak to the Pakistan-leg matches, which will now commence from March 9.
The changes have been forced by the closure of much of Pakistan’s airspace in the wake of political and military tension between Pakistan and India.
The closure created substantial operational and logistical challenges relating to the delivery of the three Lahore matches, which were scheduled for March 9, 10 and 12. In the last four days, more than 400 flights have been affected. Lahore, bordering India from the north, had had its flight operations suspended initially; there has been partial resumption since Sunday morning. Operations in Karachi, however, resumed on March 1 with all international flights operating normally.
PCB Chairman Mr Ehsan Mani said: “This has been a difficult and tough decision, which has been taken following discussion and consultation with all the franchisees and service providers to ensure certainty and clarity on the event as well as delivery of the remaining matches as per the PCB’s own very high standards.
“Due to the recent and prevailing uncertainty, we felt it critical to make a decisive decision at this juncture. “We had considered the option of shifting the dates of the eight matches in Pakistan, but because the Pakistan cricket team has to leave for the UAE on 19 March for the ODI series against Australia, this was not possible. We also looked at swapping matches between Lahore and Karachi, but paucity of time would have rendered this option unworkable,” he added.
Over the last few days, India and Pakistan have exchanged hostilities, which even led to the BCCI writing to the ICC requesting that Pakistan be kept out of the World Cup in England later this year, a request the ICC turned down last week.
The military tension had cast doubts over the PSL’s Pakistan leg altogether. The UAE leg of the tournament ends on March 5, after which the action will shift to Pakistan on March 9 — not March 7 as originally planned — with Lahore and Karachi originally slated to host three and five games, respectively.
Some of the key challenges that PCB has faced as a result of the delayed opening of the Lahore airport have included securing production equipment and the commitment of broadcast crew, as well as finalising the logistics for the officials and teams.
“It is unfortunate that the headquarters of Pakistan cricket will be unable to host the PSL matches in 2019 due to no fault of the PCB, but this is a small sacrifice for a bigger and larger national cause,” Mani said.
“We have spoken with the franchisees, who have backed this decision and have reinforced that all their foreign players will feature in the last eight matches of what has been an outstanding and highly competitive tournament that has been thoroughly enjoyed by the fans and the players.
“The PCB appreciates and applauds the support of the franchisees as well as the players, who understand that the evolving situation has forced us to make these amendments to the event schedule,” said the PCB chairman.
According to the revised schedule, the Pakistan-leg matches will start on 9 March with Lahore Qalandars meeting Islamabad United at 7pm PST.
The only double-header will be played on March 11 when Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans will go head to head at 2pm and Karachi Kings will take on Peshawar Zalmi at 7pm.
The Qualifier between the number-one and two placed sides will be played on March 13. The Eliminator 1, between the third and fourth-placed sides, will take place on March 14.
The Eliminator 2, between the losers of the Qualifier and the winners of Eliminator 1 will be played on March 15.
The final will take place as per schedule on March 17, with the first ball being bowled at 7pm PST.
The PCB will refund tickets for all Lahore matches as per the face value of the tickets.The PCB said further details would be provided for existing match ticket-holders and for purchasing of tickets for the additional games.
Keeping in mind the uncertainty, Mani had earlier this week called a press conference in Dubai with bosses of most of the PSL franchises to reaffirm the board’s commitment to hosting the last few matches of the PSL in Pakistan.
A few of the overseas players are understood to have raised concerns over growing tensions in Pakistan, but all franchises have said they have the consent of their players. Cricinfo reported that Quetta Gladiators opener Shane Watson had not made a commitment to go to Pakistan from the very beginning. Karachi Kings’ Aaron Summers, another Australian player, is most likely to travel, while one of the biggest names in the tournament, former South Africa batsman AB de Villiers, had made a commitment to play in two matches in Lahore.
Saturday, 9 March – Lahore Qalandars v Islamabad United (match starts 7pm PST)
Sunday, 10 March – Karachi Kings v Quetta Gladiators (match starts 7pm PST)
Monday, 11 March – Lahore Qalandars v Multan Sultans (match starts 2pm PST); Karachi Kings v Peshawar Zalmi (match starts 7pm PST)
Wednesday, 13 March – Qualifier (1 v 2) (match starts 7pm PST)
Thursday, 14 March – Eliminator 1 (3 v 4) (match starts 7pm PST)
Friday, 15 March – Eliminator 2 (match starts 7pm PST)
Sunday, 17 March – Final (match starts 7pm PST)