10 things to look forward to in PSL 2017

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The second edition of the Pakistan Super League is upon us, and here are 10 things we can expect this time around.

Money makes the mare go

Will you lend me your mare to ride a mile? No, she is lame leaping over a stile. Alack! and I must go to the fair!

They said you weren’t possible. They said you would fail. The Pakistan Super League (PSL) was not supposed to happen. If it did, it would never make money.

The first edition of PSL turned in a profit of $2.6 million.

Not bad for a league played outside its core market. And extraordinary for an event that was written off even before it was launched.

Now the task is to sustain and grow further. Good crowds are essential and it will be interesting to see the response in the United Arab Emirates after the novelty of the first PSL has worn off.

Tickets are priced reasonably and now it is up to the quality of gameplay and Pakistan Cricket Board’s marketing team to drum up excitement for the second edition.

I’ll give you good money for lending your mare. Oh, oh! Say you so? Money will make the mare to go.

PCB chairman Najam Sethi speaks during the second edition PSL draft in Dubai. - AFP
PCB chairman Najam Sethi speaks during the second edition PSL draft in Dubai. – AFP
Young and hungry

Lights, camera, action. It is time to rise and shine.

One of the most important aspects of the PSL has been the exposure for Pakistan cricket’s youth. For a country deprived of international cricket for almost eight years (barring Zimbabwe’s visit), the PSL is the chance for those outside of central contracts to stand up and be noticed.

Mohammad Nawaz benefitted the most in 2016 and went on to make debuts in all three formats of the game for Pakistan. Mohammad Asghar and Hasan Ali also came into the limelight.

Pakistani cricket fans will be keen to see new talent emerge this year and go on to adorn our national colours.

Aye aye, captain

“The idea (to play PSL) is to assess myself how badly I want to play cricket.”

Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, and defending PSL champion, Misbah-ul-Haq turns 43 in May.

It is ironic that at this stage of Misbah’s career, his Test cricket future depends on how he performs or feels in a T20 league.

Like most sportsmen, perhaps he is also looking to end his journey on a high.

If anyone has earned the right to bow out with full respect and honour, it is the man from Mianwali.

But will he be able to?

Misbah-ul-Haq, captain of defending champions, Islamabad United. Photo: PCB
Misbah-ul-Haq, captain of defending champions, Islamabad United. Photo: PCB
The Universe Boss

Choose something that you would do for free and then figure out a way to make a living out of it.

Chris Gayle is now 37 years old and no longer ranked in the Top 10 T20 players in the World. He had a PSL to forget last year as he scored only 103 runs in five matches for Lahore Qalandars with 60 of them coming in one inning.

This followed being ejected from the Big Bash League for an infamous interview. Gayle should be keen to stamp his name on this year’s PSL after moving to Karachi Kings.

Gayle seems to be doing best when he is having fun. Fans will hope that the Jamaican brings his mojo back and enjoys his game.

Chris Gayle could be a hit or a miss for Karachi Kings.  – AFP/File
Chris Gayle could be a hit or a miss for Karachi Kings. – AFP/File
The comeback kings

Worry not if you are dropped. You can always come back as captain. If you retire, you can come back again, and then retire later. In politics, nothing is permanent they say. Neither is it the case in Pakistan cricket, as we know.

Sharjeel Khan’s 117 in last year’s third qualifying final helped knock out Shahid Afridi’s crowd-favourite Peshawar Zalmi from the tournament. This helped Sharjeel break into the Pakistani national team again.

Mohammad Sami also made his one-millionth comeback in the team on the basis of his performance in the PSL.

With Ahmed Shehzad sitting on the sidelines, this tournament will be crucial for him and others like Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Umar Gul, Sohaib Maqsood, Haris Sohail and possibly Saeed Ajmal to get their shot at redemption.

Ahmed Shehzad is desperate to make his way back into the national squad. File Photo
Ahmed Shehzad is desperate to make his way back into the national squad. File Photo
So long, farewell

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night. I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.

Crowds pour in to watch him play, and empty out stands as he leaves the field. They root for Shahid Khan Afridi; the rest is just noise.

After the group stage, Peshawar Zalmi became favourites last year. But two consecutive losses in the qualifying finals hurt Lala’s team.

He has conceded the captaincy to Darren Sammy for PSL 2017, but the nation’s favourite son will be out to prove a point.

He was the only Pakistani selected in the T20 team of the year 2016 by ESPN Cricinfo.

Regretfully they tell us but firmly they compel us, to say goodbye to you. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye.

Afridi is still the most popular cricket brand in Pakistan. - AFP
Afridi is still the most popular cricket brand in Pakistan. – AFP
Age is a number

Mohammad Yousuf wasn’t picked for the squad of the first ever World T20 by Pakistan with the perception that T20 was a young man’s game.

Things have changed since, as the value of experience and a specific set of skills has come to the fore.

Proof lays in Brendon Mc Cullum, Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Kevin Pietersen, Misbah ul Haq and Shane Watson. They have all passed their 35th birthday and will have a trick or two up their sleeves to show to the youngsters.

In the Olympics, track and field athletes are now older than at any time in history: the average age of competitors increased from 22 in the early 1900s to 26 today.

Legends of the fall

Behind every successful sportsman there is a mentor.

And the PSL took mentorship very seriously as Sir Vivian Richards was prominently visible during Quetta Gladiators’ run to the final last year.

Peshawar Zalmi have added Younis Khan as their mentor this year. It will be interesting to see the value that he is able to add, being the Pakistani captain that brought home Pakistan’s only World T20 Cup.

Islamabad United mentored by Wasim Akram took home the first PSL trophy last year.

Lahore Qalandars and Karachi United have handed over this responsibility to their captains this year, Brendon Mc Cullum and Kumar Sangakara, respectively.

Players have much to learn from Sir Vivian. Photo: PCB
Players have much to learn from Sir Vivian. Photo: PCB
Gulshan or Gulberg?

Zahid Nihari or Butt Karahi Tikka? Burns Road or Gawalmandi?

Karachi and Lahore are by far the largest cities of Pakistan and possess the most expensive franchises.

They were also expected to do well in the first edition of the PSL. But Lahore ended up being the only team not qualifying for the playoffs. Karachi didn’t fare much better either, ending up in fourth place.

Having changed captains and recruited new players, these teams with large fan bases will be hellbent on showing an improvement this time.

With Lahore potentially competing in the final on their territory, this will also be a major source of motivation for the Qalanders.

The ARY group owns Karachi Kings and Geo is the media partner of Lahore Qalanders.

Make what you may of it.

Homecoming

Hope is a good thing.

Sunday, March 05, 2017 will be the day the PSL comes home.

200 million Pakistanis will be looking forward to a successfully-held final on home soil. Lahore will be lit up to host the match, and the excitement level is already through the roof.

Let’s hope that it will pave the way for international cricket and the future editions of the PSL to take place where they belong: Pakistan.

1996 World Cup final in Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
1996 World Cup final in Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

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