Local star power – Diary

THE seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League is launched. The T20 extravaganza opened on the back of a strong year for the national team which raised expectations of a bright future. Despite growing concerns from Omicron, the PCB made every effort to maintain the one-month PSL. It was a matter of now or never, especially with a packed international calendar that offered no other window for hosting its flagship competition. This has meant a lack of international star power with several teams committed to their own international series – notably England and West Indies. Sri Lanka will tour Australia next month, while New Zealand will host South Africa. PSL is also in conflict with the Bangladesh Premier League, which means that the best players in Bangladesh are absent. The cancellation of Mzansi’s Covid-related Super League had raised hopes that South African players could be available for the PSL, but their board could not agree terms with the PCBs. Other semi-retired players, like the versatile Pakistani Mohammad Hafeez, play Legends Cricket League in Oman. PSL teams therefore had to make do with second-tier foreign players despite a new broadcast deal and a big increase in sponsors. Most of the best players selected by the franchises had to be replaced by those who were available. Players from England and the West Indies will arrive once their streak is complete in the Caribbean, but the ins and outs will happen in times of uncertainty, with a rapidly evolving pandemic situation, quarantines and periods of isolation.

Since taking office, PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja has stressed that Pakistan must work on a level playing field with other top cricket boards. Once that is achieved, perhaps the PCB can force a window for the PSL like the Indian Premier League did across the border. Meanwhile, the strong performance of the national team has resulted in the PSL being honored by Pakistani stars who have gained international recognition. The PSL will have ICC Cricketer of the Year in Shaheen Shah Afridi, Pakistan’s Best ODI Player, Skipper Babar Azam and Best Player in the Game’s Shortest Format Mohammad Rizwan. It adds some excitement with the captain trio of their teams – Lahore Qalandars, Karachi Kings and defending champions Multan Sultans respectively. But above all, with the absence of big international names, this season’s PSL offers a chance for talented youngsters to make their mark on the road to stardom.

Posted in Dawn, January 29, 2022

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