DUBAI: The HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) is getting bigger and bigger with every passing year and with every edition. The fourth edition will be the biggest of all the past editions as it will have the spice of one of world’s most destructive batsmen, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers — fondly referred to as AB, says a PCB release.
Not only AB de Villiers’ presence will add charm to the PSL, his sentiments on playing his part on the revival of international cricket in Pakistan will give a tremendous boost to the efforts of the PCB in convincing the teams and international players to return to the country where people are mad about the game
“I am delighted to confirm that I will represent Lahore Qalandars in front of our home crowds on March 9 and 10, during the PSL 2019,” de Villiers had said last month.
“I am fully aware that cricket is like a second religion in Pakistan. I still remember the support and appreciation we received in 2007 (South Africa tour to Pakistan).
“Furthermore, I feel I have a role to play in helping international cricket return to Pakistan. These have been some of the motivating factors for me to return to Lahore.
“I sympathise with the people of Pakistan because they have been cricket-starved for no fault of theirs, but I am optimistic that the days are not too far when international cricket will return to Pakistan and the stadia will once again be packed with crowds.”
But, de Villiers is not the only star attraction of the tournament. There are Shane Watson, Andre Russell, Luke Ronchi, Dwayne Bravo, Rilee Rossouw, Fawad Ahmed, Daren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Liam Dawson, Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan, Dan Christian, Sikander Raza, Anoton Devicich, Brendon Taylor, Samit Patel and host of other international names lined up to entertain the crowds.
Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane, Australia’s Aaron Summers and exciting performers from England’s Twenty20 event, Laurie Evans, Philip Salt and Liam Livingstone will also add to the PSL charms.
For the national players this year’s PSL is more important for the fact that it’s the World Cup year. Albeit, it’s a slightly longer format (50-over) but head coach Mickey Arthur’s announcement that a good performance in the PSL can get a player a ticket to the World Cup has added more charm for the players.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani reiterated the objectives of the PSL.
“It is a fact that it provides a platform for our emerging players to perform and to get lauded. It’s a great opportunity for them to play in a competitive environment and learn from some top international players,” said Mani.
Also the fact is that, the PSL has been the harbinger for the return of international cricket to Pakistan.
The second edition in 2017 saw the final played in Lahore, while last year three matches were held, including the final. This year eight matches will be held — five in Karachi, including March 17 final — and three in Lahore.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring back international cricket to the country for which we have schedule eight PSL matches in Pakistan for the first time,” Mani said.
Pakistan government under legendary cricketer and inspiring captain Imran Khan has vowed to do all-out efforts to bring full PSL back to Pakistan next year.
All the six teams are well balanced, highly motivated and best prepared to take the 50,000 full-of-crystal trophy which is a representation of the Pakistani flag in all its sparkling beauty, with crystals one by one rising up as a dazzling green beam and shows off the majestic Shooting Star at the pinnacle.
From the most vibrant franchise Lahore Qalandars to the newest team Multan Sultans to the twice champions Islamabad United and one-time winners Peshawar Zalmi, to the most enthusiastic Karachi Kings to the unassuming twice runners-up Quetta Gladiators, every team promises tooth-to-nail fight for the honours.
Remember one-run wins (twice between Quetta and Peshawar in 2016 and 2017) and two Super Over finishes (both involving Lahore in 2018) left the spectators on the edges of their seats.
So, once again it is time to gear up for another exciting season of the PSL where a galaxy of stars will show their skills.
Action will begin right after the opening ceremony when defending champions Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars will go toe to toe in the tournament opener.
Friday’s fixtures: Multan Sultans v Karachi Kings, Dubai (4:30pm); Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators, Dubai (9:00pm).