February 22 is nearly here. The third edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is ready to witness more of the fireworks, bat drops, team selfies and fascinating celebrations — everything that lightened up the second edition, but promisingly bigger and better.
24 match days await the cricket-mad audiences around the world as they will eat, sleep and breathe cricket for nearly a month courtesy 34 matches across four cities: first in UAE’s Dubai and Sharjah, then in Lahore, and finally the grand finale in Karachi.
With the first edition setting standards and the second one raising the bar even higher, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is looking right into the eyes of a challenge.
Pakistani cricket fans have been known to hold unrealistic expectations from their cricket teams in all three formats, and they are further strengthened when the team delivers in the most surprising of manners in the most impossible of moments.
However, this time around, the board and management of the PSL are going to feel the pressure of the expectations. Players will be the last ones bearing the brunt of expectations, in PSL at least.
A sixth team, the roster stretched, two matches in Lahore and a final in Karachi. All these things will test the PSL management’s experience and organising skills which they acquired and then developed in the first two editions.
A sixth teams means more matches and a month-long event. In an age where cricket-loving audiences have become used to of quick-fire centuries and hat-tricks, to keep the audience engaged would not be an easy job for the management with an extended roster.
PCB would have to take a leaf out of other domestic T20 league’s book and organise off-field events to keep the audience stuck to the TV or willing to attend matches, especially in the 21 match days in Dubai and Sharjah.
Players can visit schools and colleges, have public appearances on off days for meet-and-greet sessions.
Next up, the problem of filling up Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore would not be a problem since the country is already hungry for action. But, as we saw last year, most of the Quetta Gladiators’ players didn’t travel to Pakistan, which led to a one-sided encounter where Peshawar ran over Sarfraz Ahmed and co with ease.
Lahore offers a blueprint of security arrangements and boasts the organisation of many international matches in the city, but even if you check this problem off your list, you just won’t be able to look away when the discussion on the final in Karachi starts.
Two major problems come to mind.
Firstly, the logistics of the match. Unlike Lahore, Karachi hasn’t experienced any international match since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan players’ bus. The security plan that will be put in place for the final would be tried and tested when the teams lands in the city, travel to the hotel, then visit the stadium, play the match and leave back for the hotel.
A full-dress rehearsal on February 11 has been planned to tackle this issues, but the practicality of the plan will be tested only when March 25 comes.
Secondly, international stars might be fine with Lahore, now, since they saw the PSL2 final happen in Lahore without any hiccups, but will they be ready to play in the financial capital of the country is still unknown.
All in all, PSL3 will be a new test for the tournament’s organising team. PCB will have to put in an augmented effort and nothing else to pull off a historic edition.