It’s just the start of the tournament and the fever is intensifying with each passing day
The country’s marquee T20 blast, the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021, is in progress at Karachi’s National Stadium. It’s just the start of the tournament and the fever is intensifying with each passing day.
So far some entertaining cricket has been seen with some of the matches turning out to be gripping ones as they were decided in the 19th or the final over.
At the end of the second round on February 24, Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad United had won two matches each while Karachi Kings and Peshawar Zalmi had claimed one victory each. Multan Sultans and the 2019 champions Quetta Gladiators were yet winless. Quetta’s performance in the first two games remained the poorest. They were completely outclassed by Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars.
Some good individual performances were also seen with Karachi Kings’ Sharjeel Khan scoring the first hundred of the season when he smashed 105, which included eight sixes, against Islamabad United. But his wonderful effort failed to pay dividends as Islamabad United chased the 197-run target after losing five wickets thanks to superb contributions from Alex Hales, Iftikhar Ahmed, Hussain Talat and Asif Ali.
Sharjeel entertained the cheering crowd with four successive sixes off the bowling of Shadab Khan in the ninth over of the innings.
Chris Gayle also showed some spark, scoring quick-fire 39 and 68 for Quetta in the first two matches but he had to fly back for joining the West Indies team for their T20 home series against Sri Lanka.
Quetta have roped in South Africa’s seasoned batsman Faf du Plessis as partial cover for Gayle who will return for the Lahore leg and has promised that he will rain sixes to entertain the crowd.
Dale Steyn has also arrived to boost Quetta bowling.
English batsman Alex Hales showed his class in Islamabad’s second win on February 24 against Karachi Kings.
Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, who was declared by the ICC as the best T20 player of the decade last year, left an early impact for Lahore Qalandars before leaving for joining his national side for the Test series against Zimbabwe starting in the UAE next week.
Afghanistan’s experienced allrounder Mohammad Nabi has been playing for Karachi Kings and is performing well.
English allrounder Lewis Gregory has already won a match for the United through his all-round contribution.
English batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Zalmi), Ravi Bopara (Zalmi), Sherfane Rutherford (Zalmi) and Joe Clarke (Kings) have also contributed to their team’s causes.
The local players who did well include Babar Azam (Kings), Mohammad Hafeez (Lahore), Fakhar Zaman (Lahore), Haider Ali (Zalmi), Imam-ul-Haq (Zalmi), Mohammad Rizwan (Multan), Shahid Afridi (Multan), Arshad Iqbal (Kings), Asif Ali (Islamabad United) and Shaheen Afridi (Lahore).
The players are getting adjusted with the conditions and in the coming days some more exciting cricket is on the cards.
The teams winning tosses are going to seal victories. The dew factor plays a role.
Some break was seen on Wednesday in the second innings in the game between United and Kings. Seven pitches have been prepared with a fast outfield for the 20 matches to be held in the Karachi leg which will end on March 7.
The Lahore leg will begin from March 10 at the Gaddafi Stadium which will host 14 matches.
The PSL is a great platform for youngsters to learn from the gurus of international cricket from around the world. Sharing dressing rooms with them gives youngsters a lot of confidence.
They also have foreign support staff around with solid cricket credentials and they can learn from them.
Darren Sammy, Herschelle Gibbs, Andy Flower and local gurus Wasim Akram, Aqib Javed, Moin Khan, Mushtaq Ahmad and Azhar Mahmood are there for the youngsters to learn from.
It’s fun but at the same time contributing to game development.
There is a cricket buzz in Karachi and players and fans are very happy to have eventually found some thrill after a year of tension created by COVID.
Hats off to the players who have come down here from across the world, and are living in a bio-secure bubble and entertaining the fans.
A big plus happened on Thursday. Until February 24, only 20 percent crowd was allowed to witness the matches inside the stadium. However, a bold step was taken on February 25 when after getting nod from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) the PCB decided to allow 50 percent crowd for the remaining Karachi-leg matches. The PCB will monitor how fans behave and how they follow COVID protocols. And on the basis of that assessment the Board will then decide to further increase the numbers for the Lahore leg.
Before the February 25 decision, only 20 percent crowd was allowed but we saw that even that number of people could not come to the venue, except for the Karachi-Islamabad February 24 game.
There are also some negative sides of the event. And that is the security arrangement. No doubt it is indispensable but it should not be that tough which could affect patients, labour class and even residents around the NSK.
It has also been seen that journalists, despite having all the necessary documents, are facing issues in reaching the media centres inside the stadium. Even photographers faced entry issues. Journalists play a key role in game development. They need proper protocol during coverage of such events. The Board earns money because of media coverage. In 2018 I got a chance to go to Australia to cover the Commonwealth Games. That was my 15th foreign tour. I was amazed to see that journalists were given extraordinary protocol. We need to learn the importance of media. During PSL too special entry points should be specified for the journalists where there should be no manual body searches. Journalists also need power-banks but these are not allowed during PSL. They are even asked by the security personnel to switch on your laptop. How ludicrous is this? I hope in future the Board will consult with the chiefs of the security agencies so that journalists do not face such issues.