Thanks to a mini collapse by the Islamabad United, the Pakistan Super League finale at National Stadium Karachi on Sunday bore just about as much excitement on the field as it had mustered off it, in what was the most high-profile cricket match in the city since 2009 – when Sri Lanka visited the country.
The first PSL match in Karachi rounded off successful hosting of three league games in the country, with two playoffs being held in Lahore last week.
Now the PCB chairman Najam Sethi has vowed that half of the league would be played out in Pakistan next year. And considering that the man has lived up to every word of his since taking over the reins of the PSL, and then the PCB, except PSL 4 to not only have a larger share of its matches in Pakistan, but also for the league to be spread out in other cities of Pakistan.
Yes, just like the PSL final last year in Lahore, the security in Karachi was squeezed in at abnormally high levels. And yes, considering the amount of personnel being deployed for these matches – 8,000 were guarding the stadium alone – does signify that there remain security threats in the country for high-profile events.
However, the continued seamless hosting of these events is gradually helping create a secure environment in the country, even if the creation of the intended stability might be some time away.
While last year’s PSL final paved the way for the tours of the World XI and the Sri Lankan side later this year, this year’s tournament would further allow more international sides to feel increasingly comfortable touring Pakistan. West Indies are coming in next week, with a trio of T20s set to be played in Karachi – the first international cricket matches in the city for almost a decade.
Even though Pakistan do not have slot available to host any sides for the next few months, the continued hosting of these matches would gradually give the board the breathing space to conduct full series at home, and at an increasing frequency.
But, just like the previous editions, PSL 3 hasn’t just heralded optimism off the field – the league continues to supply prodigious talent to the national side as well, which at the end of the day is the biggest goal for franchise cricket.
While the first two editions of the league gave the national side the likes of Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan – all three of whom have been instrumental in Pakistan’s limited overs successes, a punctuated by the Champions Trophy triumph last summer – from this year’s final alone, the likes of Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Sahibzada Farhan, Sameen Gul and Umaid Asif represent the future of Pakistan cricket.
Also, the league isn’t just about the future and shaping up the bigger picture. As a sports brand, it possessed every bit of entertainment value as any other T20 league in the world. This season two matches were decided on the super over, and both the Lahore playoffs – crucial knockout matches – went down to the last over, just like many other league matches.
That international players of the pedigree of JP Duminy, Tymal Mills, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy, Luke Ronchi – the eventual man of the tournament – among others toured Pakistan for the playoffs and the final will encourage others to come to the country as well, especially those who have been dropping out of the PSL after the UAE leg.
Yes, there are reports that the franchises haven’t been able to break even just yet. But as the brand grows, that is only going to be a formality.
However, what will be crucial for the league’s all-round success is that more and more matches are held in Pakistan, till the tournament is hosted in its entirety in the country.
That would not only signal the hike of economic graphs for all concerned parties, all the other positives that are being derived by the PSL will similarly jump up by manifold.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.