PSL 6 promises safer, spectacular show of cricket
After successfully delivering over 235 matches in 11 domestic events in the 2020-21 season during the difficult and challenging Covid-19 pandemic, its time for the big one – the HBL Pakistan Super League 6, which gets underway at the iconic National Stadium in Karachi on Saturday, 20 February, with the opener between defending champions Karachi Kings and 2019 winners Quetta Gladiators.
The event organisers have promised to make this marquee event safer and spectacular than the other domestic events as six franchise teams will vie for the glittering trophy and a cash award of PKR80million from total prize money of PKR112million.
With the event restricted to Karachi and Lahore, strict PCB Covid-19 Protocols will be followed in the stadiums, filled with a limited number of fans being around to cheer their favourite players on.
After hosting the full version of the fifth edition at home, the fact that the sixth event in the PSL history will be played in Pakistan once again means a lot of joy for the local fans. This is after the first four editions were played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) means a huge fillip to the tournament.
The fact that over the last couple of years the return of international cricket and the entire edition of the HBL PSL is a huge tribute to the effort of the security establishment of the country, the efforts of the Federal Government and the untiring will and endeavours of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
The overseas player contingent feels a lot safer to come over and play in Pakistan, which means that the re-integration is now complete.
The return of the crowds to the HBL Pakistan Super League in the 2021 edition is a huge step-up after the final four league matches in the previous year were played in front of an empty stadium following the Covid-19 outbreak. Even during the play-offs there were no crowds at the National Stadium in Karachi, including the mouth-watering title clash between arch-rivals Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars.
This time around, the first 20 HBL Pakistan Super League 6 matches from February 20 to March 7 will be played in Karachi. Following a two-day break, the remaining 14 matches, including the March 22 final, will be staged in Lahore.
The good news for the fans is that 20 per cent will be allowed, some 7,500 in Karachi and around 5,500 in Lahore. More are expected to attend the play-offs and the final, health regulations permitting.
PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan is excited to welcome the country’s most talked-about event.
“We are in the sixth year of HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) and it’s a matter of great pride for all of us that this edition will be safer and spectacular than ever before,” said Wasim Khan, adding: “We are thankful to the National Command and Operation Centre for allowing us to have 20 per cent fans during the matches. The presence of fans will lift the players and create a good atmosphere, something which embodies live sport.”
It has been a successful time for PCB who have managed to successfully stage all domestic and international matches in all age categories/across genders with strict PCB Covid-19 Protocols.
“Fittingly, the HBL PSL 6 will be the culmination of a highly successful 2020-21 season. We are the only country that has successfully delivered over 235 matches to date in the season despite the challenges of Covid19.
“This shows our will to fulfill our obligations and commitments. Hopefully, when the final ball will be bowled in the HBL PSL 6 on March 22, we would have delivered 275 matches from 16 events, which would be a monumental achievement,” said Wasim Khan.
As always, a galaxy of international stars will add to the local flavour of players.
For the first time, Twenty20’s magical spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan will be seen in action during the tournament alongside his compatriot batch of mystery spinners including Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Qais Ahmad and Noor Ahmed.
England is represented by a bunch of short format specialists, as such Tom Banton, Adam Lyth, Alex Hales, Joe Clarke, James Vince, Samit Patel, Saqib Mahmood and Lewis Gregory
Australia’s T20 specialists – Chris Lynn, Dan Christian, Ben Cutting, Ben Dunk and Fawad Ahmed – will be on ground this time around to show their skills
Caribbean flavour will spice up the tournament with the presence of Chris Gayle, Chadwick Walton, Sherfaine Rutherford and Carlos Brathwaite.
South Africans during the tournament will be David Miller, Colin Ingram, Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Cameron Delport.
Wasim Khan is thrilled with the full complement of foreign stars arriving for the sixth HBL Pakistan Super League.
“The success of HBL PSL has grown by leaps and bounds, and the fact that some 425 foreign players registered for the draft and over 50 of them will be coming to feature in the PSL, is ample proof of that,” said Wasim Khan.
Local players will have the motivation to impress the selectors with their performances and break into the national team for the mega event, the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2021 in October.
When you compare the relative strengths of the six franchises, it becomes increasingly clear that it is near impossible to decipher who can win it.
The two-time champion Islamabad United are like wounded tigers. They finished last in the previous edition, so expect a strong comeback from them as they have strengthened their outfit with the inclusion of in-form Hasan Ali
The 2019 champion Quetta Gladiators will be anxious to improve on their fifth-place finish in 2020 as they have recruited Gayle and Banton to bolster the top-order. Leg-spin of Qais and Zahid Mahmood will also be helpful in halting the rival march
Lahore Qalandars will be hungry for the title after finishing runner-up in the 2020 event. They have the best bowling attack with Afghanistan superstar Rashid Khan and Pakistan’s T20I pace spearheads Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf in their line-up. Mohammad Hafeez's form will also be handy in batting
Multan Sultans were on top of the table when the league was suspended due to Covid-19 last year and then lost their way when play-offs were played. Under an in-form Mohammad Rizwan, they will be the team to beat. Lynn and Lyth along with Shahid Afridi and Sohaib Maqsood will also provide a lot of firepower
Peshawar Zalmi are also in the run after finishing without a title in the last three editions. Their captain Wahab Riaz is the leading wicket-taker in the HBL Pakistan Super League history and they now boast of a spin attack with Afghanistan's Mujeeb and young Abrar Ahmed. Veteran Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik will also aspire to finish on a high
Defending champions Karachi Kings will be keen to hold onto the title with all their might. In Wasim Akram, they have one of the best brains of cricket who plans astutely with new Head Coach Herschelle Gibbs. They have a star-studded batting line-up in current heartthrob Babar Azam, Sharjeel Khan and Colin Ingram alongside a balanced bowling attack led by the supremely talented Mohammad Amir.
So fasten your seat belts and get ready for an exciting turbulent ride during the HBL Pakistan Super League 6.