KARACHI : The Pakistan Super League (PSL) became finally functional in 2016, much to the delight of cricket crazy fans in the country, and in just two editions has started meeting or surpassing expectations in across all criteria.
Despite facing several hurdles, the two-year-old PSL is already considered to be one of the big three leagues in the world alongside the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL).
The main aims of the league, claimed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), were to feed the national cricket team and help unearth youngsters that would otherwise go under the radar while playing in the empty stands that usually plague the country’s domestic games.
Capital city side Islamabad United made history by becoming the first team to claim the PSL, but there is more going on behind the scenes than what meets the eye. The team may have consisted of star veterans such as Misbahul Haq, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, but they can also boast the likes of young and upcoming stars such as the country’s latest darling Shadab Khan and pace bowler Rumman Raees.
“The plan is to organise two U23 tournaments, one each in Rawalpindi and Islamabad,” said team manager Rehanul Haq. “Each tournament will feature six teams, for which the players are selected by a four-member selection committee that will evaluate players in the ongoing trials. The winners of both tournaments will then meet in a grand finale. Through this we can identify more players for the upcoming editions.”
Islamabad were one of the few franchises who instantly got involved in another T20 competition — Hong Kong T20 Blitz — where they bought a franchise with the name of Hong Kong Islands United.
The move came as a surprise for many cricket pundits in the country, but Rehan believed it was a step in the right direction. “I know it doesn’t feel as competitive from the outside, but it really is,” he said. “Players such as Brian Lara and Kieron Pollard have taken part in these tournaments, which makes it a really competitive event. Our aim for buying a franchise in that tournament was to give young players exposure and we believe that it helped them.”
However, Islamabad are not investing in South Africa’s Global T20 League, despite rivals Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi doing so. “As of now, we are not involved in the South Africa T20 league,” said Rehan, but did reveal that that might change soon. “This project is in the pipelines and you can expect to see us there in the near future.”
Islamabad have one of the highest average age of any T20 side in the world but Rehan insists that has actually helped the youngsters.
“We set ourselves an aim of providing two players to the national team in two years, but we’ve managed to give four — Shadab, Rumman, Ammad Butt and Hussain Talat,” he said. “This is down to the fact that these youngsters are playing with such experienced campaigners, who share invaluable tips with them and help them develop under their wing.”
Islamabad skipper Misbahul Haq recently announced his retirement from international cricket and Rehan admitted they are already planning for life without Pakistan’s most successful Test captain.
“Having someone as experienced as Misbah as captain helped us a lot as a team,” he said. “However, moving forward, we know that Misbah’s time as a cricketer is coming to an end, which is why we are seriously thinking of appointing a vice-captain from season three who can be groomed to lead the side in the future.”
(Edited by Taha Anis)