The progression of previous Pakistan Super League (PSL) editions went something like this: the frenzy builds up, big names from the music industry lip-sync the PSL anthem, the excitement then plateaus before skyrocketing in the play-offs. The final, of course, is a final.
This has been repeated over the last four years. So, what’s different about PSL this time?
This time, a full-fledged multi-team tournament — mind you, not just a series — is taking place right here in our own backyard and this time, no one is not travelling due to security concerns.
That alone is reason enough for fans to be rooting for PSL’s fifth edition, which kicks off today in Karachi.
Of course, hardcore PSL fans are excited but when are they not? Those who live for the game stayed alive all through the last decade when the team played its ‘home’ games in a desert; they were even paying attention when their beloved stars played the ‘mighty’ Zimbabwe; and they did their fanboying even when one of the ‘Big’ three was using its little ego to isolate Pakistan in world cricket.
It’s the casuals though who perhaps do not realise that it’s not just a T20 tournament that’s starting from February 20, it’s proof that Pakistan cricket has finally managed to exorcise its decade-long demons.
Forget any matches lost, forget any World Cups not won. The fact that the country is hosting an entire tournament featuring a plethora of foreign cricketers for the first time in 25 years trumps all other tangibles.
Even all those years ago in 1996, Pakistan was only co-hosting the World Cup. This time, an entire tournament is taking place on home ground — imagine the doors it could open, and not just to sports events. PSL is actually a litmus test to gauge how far Pakistan has come from the post-9/11 rock-bottom.
This also will be the first PSL when the star attractions will not be some big-name foreign superstar. It’s the Big Bash League stud Haris Rauf and the whizkid Naseem Shah who intrigue cricket lovers. Another interesting story line is that two of the weakest franchises now have two of Pakistan’s most impressive performers of 2019: Shaheen Shah and Babar Azam.
It remains to be seen if their individual brilliance rubs on to their teammates but surely these two will make for must-watch TV during PSL.
Getting to this point is the culmination of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) years of hard work. Sure, the board has its problems that see fans and critics take shots at it frequently, and for good reasons. However, credit must be given as it’s absolutely due here.
From the current chairman-CEO duo of Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan to their predecessors on whose groundwork this PSL and all other tours are being staged, everyone deserves kudos. Had it not been for Najam Sethi, the league would not have come so far in such a short span.
With that said, the responsibility now is on the fans’ shoulders — especially the casual ones whose participation makes all the difference — to turn PSL from just a cricket tournament into something else.
Use it because, if nothing else, PSL gives the people of Pakistan the opportunity to distract themselves from all the missing sugars, leaking gases, media monitoring, FATF listings and whatnot.
The cricket comes home mantra has been oft repeated over the past two years. At times, it was a tad premature, too, but this time, cricket indeed is coming home. The organisers, the players, and everyone else has done their job. Now the fans must too.