The 2019 edition of the PSL was by far the most important season out of the four. With the highest number of matches being played in Pakistan from all the seasons, this season was supposed to be a litmus test of Pakistan’s ability to successfully and safely organize high profile cricket matches in the country.
Each season of PSL has been more important than the one preceding it. The first season in 2016 was a test of the brand itself and a test of Pakistan’s ability to organise such a mega event even if abroad. This test we passed successfully. The second season in 2017 was a test of the confidence foreign players had in travelling to Pakistan and our ability to hold the biggest cricketing event in Pakistan since the 1996 world cup final.
We failed in gaining the confidence of the foreign players as many backed out mainly to the peril of Quetta Gladiators and we can’t blame the foreigners as the Sehwan blast was still afresh in everybody’s mind and many at home were themselves skeptical about holding this event in Pakistan. Everything however went smoothly, and Lahore got to see a great sporting spectacle. The ticket prices were killer though!
The third season in 2018 saw 3 matches being held in Pakistan, that too in two cities. Confidence of the foreign players was much greater this time and holding matches in two cities proved Pakistan still knew how to organise mega sporting events. The Pakistan leg of this season was a major success with the franchises earning as much money from these three matches as they did from the entire UAE leg. The fourth season saw things go to an even higher level. 8 matches were held in Pakistan. Big foreign icons such as Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo were coming over as well.
Lahore was unlucky to miss out on its share of matches due to the ongoing air space closure and the tension on the border, but Karachi did not let the event down. The electricity in the crowds was unlike any seen before and the entire city had a festive look and air about it. The foreign players roamed around freely without security, wining and dining at many of Karachi’s fancy eateries, hanging out with the who’s who of the city and the country’s showbiz arena. Not to forget Jonty Rhodes’ biking escapade with the ever young Aijaz Aslam.
Season 4 was a success for many reasons, mainly those outside the cricketing field. In all the visits by international players before this year, the players were mainly confined to their hotels. Going out in the city was strictly prohibited and many argued whether this would really build confidence. 2019 was different, it was exactly how things ought to be. It was how things are in other parts of the world that are considered safe for cricket. It sent out the right message to the cricketing world, that we are readier than ever to welcome them all back to Pakistan. Not to forget that National Stadium Karachi has never looked prettier. A special place in heaven is reserved for individual whose brainchild was the removal of the ugly concrete roofs on the stands!
PSL Season 4 was exactly what Pakistan cricket needed. With the 2023 world cup slated to be held in the subcontinent, the timing could not have been better. If PSL 2019 does not bring cricket back to Pakistan, nothing will!
The writer is an avid cricket follower and sports writer for Surkhiyan. He does not play well at all though.