When the idea of the Pakistan Super League was first floated, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), from the very start, promised the delivery of a well-orchestrated and efficiently-managed tournament. But was it able to keep its promise?
Let us suppose that there are only two answers here — ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Also, let us define the variables which can check the effectiveness of the event — the interest of people, attendance in stadiums, quality of matches and a chance for the young Pakistani players to show their cricketing abilities.
The scale automatically tilts towards the people who say that the PSL delivered when taking into account the last variable — the chance for emerging players to put up a show. Players like all-rounder Muhammad Nawaz and left-arm pacer Rumman Raees owe their selection in the World Twenty20 squad to the PSL. Other performers such as all-rounder Muhammad Asghar can look forward to a promising future as well. A lot of other domestic performers who couldn’t enjoy massive audiences in Pakistan were able to perform in front of the UAE crowd.
If we analyse the quality of the matches, then yes, at the start of the tournament, low-scoring matches did bore the audience. Even the opening ceremony saw only West Indian players dancing alongside Sean Paul while Ali Zafar came in towards the end to save the day with a charismatic performance. But as the tournament moved forward, close finishes and blistering cameos started offering feasts to the eyes of onlookers — another point in the PCB and PSL management’s favour.
Conversely, attendance was the only flaw during the league matches. The international players participating in the PSL, who are used to playing in front of huge audiences during the Indian Premier League, Big Bash and even Caribbean Premier League, were not disappointed, but sympathised with the Pakistani cricket fans for not being able to host their own league on their home ground. Moreover, the PSL was targeting the expats in the UAE, who came to support the teams and the event, but during the double-headers the attendance remained relatively low, one point in favour of the naysayers.
In the end, if we want to calculate the interest level then we need to take a look at the engagement of the TV audience and the Twitter trends in Pakistan. The findings would give us us a clear verdict in favour of the PSL. During each match, the top Twitter trend in Pakistan was always the PSL. Ramiz Raja also said while commentating that the Karachi versus Lahore encounter saw a TV audience larger than the 2015 World Cup Pakistan-India match. The aye-sayers beat the naysayers 3-1.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2016.