The PSL. A tournament that has changed Pakistani cricket.
March 3rd, 2009. The day that everything fell apart. The Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore and it was like the doors of cricket were going to be closed forever for Pakistan.
The UAE, Pakistan’s new home for cricket wasn’t bad but, it didn’t have the same energy, the same crowd, the same atmosphere. It was the only option but it just wasn’t the same. Years went by, and after trying and trying finally cricket came home, with Zimbabwe touring Pakistan for a short series in 2015.
After the 2015 Zimbabwe series was a success, hope was there to bring back the sport but that series was not enough to bring other teams to Pakistan as well. In 2016, the PSL’s inaugural season took place in Dubai and Sharjah, with Islamabad United triumphing. It was a successful tournament, but it was not held in Pakistan.
Going back to 2016, thinking one day the PSL will be hosted in Karachi, Lahore, Multan or Rawalpindi was completely out of the question. After all the year’s fans were starved of cricket at home, people started to lose hope. The second edition of the PSL was also hosted in the UAE with the final match scheduled to be played in Lahore.
One match in Lahore you’d say. Not a big deal. Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators qualified for the final and then the next discussion started. Which of the overseas players will travel to Lahore? Players were reluctant like expected but the PCB was determined to host the final in Pakistan, overseas players or not.
Zalmi’s players agreed on traveling, which included captain Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan, Marlon Samuels, and Dawid Malan. Quetta’s players which included Kevin Pieterson, Tymal Mills, Luke Wright all refused to play the final in Lahore due to concerns over security. More obstacles came in the way with the main production company withdrawing a week before the final. But as the PCB promised, the show had to go on.
Quetta Gladiators’s team combination was jolted, with players like Anamul Haque, Elton Chigumbura, Sean Ervine, Rayad Emrit joining the team for the final. Peshawar Zalmi comfortably won the final by 58 runs.
It was a start, one match in Lahore but it was missing Quetta’s big guns. But cricket was back in the country and that is what won in the end. The door started to open up, step by step, slow and steadily. In September 2017, the World XI toured Pakistan for 3 T20i matches, which was a key role played by the ICC to help bring cricket back to Pakistan. Among the overseas players taking part in the action were Faf du Plessis, the captain of World XI, Tamim Iqbal, Hashim Amla, Tim Paine, David Miller, Grant Elliott, Thisara Perera, Sammy, Ben Cutting, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Samuel Badree, Paul Collingwood and George Bailey.
In October 2017, Sri Lanka agreed to play the final T20i match of their 3 match series in Lahore. Sri Lanka coming back was a big part of the journey of cricket coming home, and it was a vital step in restoring cricket to Pakistan.
PSL 3, once again was played in the UAE but this time instead of 1, 3 matches were hosted in Pakistan. The two eliminators in Lahore and the grand finale in Karachi. Cricket was back in Karachi. Shortly after the PSL, the Windies toured Karachi for 3 T20i games. The National Stadium got its first taste of international cricket since 2009.
In 2019, Sri Lanka returned for a short ODI and T20 series and later on agreed on playing a two-match test series in Rawalpindi and Karachi. Test Cricket, for the first time in over 10 years, and Rawalpindi hosting an international match after 13 years. Bringing test cricket back was the final step the PCB needed to prove to the world that Pakistan is a safe place to be able to tour. Soon after, Bangladesh agreed to tour Pakistan for 3 T20is, 2 Tests, and a one-off ODI.
The PSL kicked off last week in Karachi. This time being hosted completely in Pakistan. In 2016 it was impossible to believe that one day, the whole PSL will be played in Pakistan but the PCB, armed forces, and fans remained determined to be able to pull it off. At one time it was hard to gather 3-4 overseas players to play in Pakistan and now we have 6 teams, with players like Jason Roy, Shane Watson, Alex Hales and many more participating.
From the empty stands of Dubai to jam-packed stadiums in Multan, Karachi, Rawalpindi, and Lahore. Electric atmospheres with fans showing their passion for their teams. Joyful faces all around, and it is a very proud moment for everyone in Pakistan.
The stadiums that have been deprived of cricket since 2009 are now full again. 11 years of struggle, pain and after all the troubles the PCB faced, finally they have managed to bring cricket back to the stadiums of Pakistan and it is something that should be valued by everyone in the nation. It has been a very long journey which is still not complete but finally, cricket is back in Pakistan!