The third edition of the much-awaited Pakistan Super League (PSL) promising a month full of entertainment and quality cricket, is set to explode into action at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday (today).
The league that was launched by a consortium of five entrepreneurs — with apprehensions looming over the tournament’s feasibility on foreign soil — has not only grown in number and stature but also gone on to become the second biggest franchise tournament in the world after the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Sultans, bought by the Schon Group for $5.2 million — twice the price tag of the previous most expensive team in the franchise, the Karachi Kings — are coached by legendary Pakistani paceman Wasim Akram and skippered by Shoaib Malik.
They will take on defending champion Peshawar Zalmi in the opening match in Dubai Thursday, after a rousing opening ceremony set to include a performance by US rapper Jason Derulo.
A total of thirty-four matches will be played during the about month long event.
All PSL matches will be played at four venues. Eighteen matches will be played in Dubai, thirteen in Sharjah, two in Lahore, while the final will be played in Karachi’s National Stadium on March 25.
Pakistan has staged its international fixtures in the United Arab Emirates in recent years as it grapples with militant violence.
But a dramatic improvement in security saw officials stage the PSL final in Lahore last year, its biggest match in nearly a decade, a move which boosted hopes the cricket-obsessed country could become an international venue once more.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said he hopes that in 2019 the entire tournament will be played at home. “That will pave the way for a full series in Pakistan by a top team,” Sethi told AFP, speaking from Dubai ahead of the tournament.
“We are very satisfied that PSL has become an international brand in two years.”
Busy schedules mean top foreign players such as England’s Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales and Jason Roy are only available for part of the tournament as are Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmuddullah Riyadh.
But the presence of stars like Australia’s Watson and Chris Lynn, the West Indies’ Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, and New Zealand’s McCullum and Luke Ronchi will lift interest.