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March 19, 2019

Cricket in Pakistan


March 19, 2019

There was an eruption of joy as more than 32,000 fans celebrated when Quetta Gladiators won their maiden Pakistan Super League (PSL) title at Karachi’s National Stadium on Sunday. The reaction would have been more or less similar had the 2017 champions Peshawar Zalmi managed to clinch the crown. That’s because the crowd had come to enjoy top-class cricket more than to support a particular team. That’s the reason the PSL is so much more important to Pakistan cricket than any ordinary T20 league. Termed as a ‘resilient’ PSL by the country’s cricket chief, this T20 league has played a major role in giving a boost to the campaign that is aimed at bringing international cricket back to Pakistan. For ten long years since the March 2007 terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan cricket has suffered as the country became a no-go zone for international teams. Even for the 2017 PSL final in Lahore, not many foreign stars made the trip to Pakistan. Quetta were without any of their key overseas players and were duly thrashed by Peshawar in the final. This time, however, things were different. A total of 39 foreign players made the trip to Karachi. Quetta, too, had all its key players including Australian star Shane Watson, the players of the tournament. Their full-strength team comfortably cruised to a title-winning triumph.

The smooth holding of the last eight PSL games in Karachi must have sent all the right signals to the cricket world. On the sidelines of Sunday’s finale, ICC’s chief executive Dave Richardson acknowledged that the PSL has changed the perception about Pakistan abroad. He rightly pointed out that the foreign players felt at home in Karachi. When fireworks exploded soon after Sunday’s final, they were not just exploding in celebration of Quetta’s well-deserved victory. It was a celebration for an entire nation which has, over the years, been one of the biggest victims of terrorism.

It was also a celebration of Pakistan cricket which saw several new stars in this latest season of the PSL. Players like Hyderabad’s 18-year-old Mohammad Hasnain who played a key role in Quetta’s victory used the PSL platform just like players like Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan did in past editions of the league. Hasan and Shadab are now big stars and household names and youngsters like Hasnain and Rawalpindi’s 19-year-old spinner Umer Khan are now following suit. Plans are now being laid for a full season of the PSL on Pakistani soil next year. Prime Minister Imran Khan has given his go-ahead for it and the PCB has already begun doing its homework. It would be great for Pakistan cricket if this target is achieved.

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