By Jawad Hussain
KARACHI, March 2, 2019 (SNN247.com) — The Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) fourth season has entered the business end as all the six participating franchises have a valid chance of qualifying into the tournament’s playoffs.
Although, Pakistani cricket fans would celebrate cricket upon the return of cricket league on the home soil, but in my view the Pakistan Cricket Board could have done a better job with the scheduling of the matches this year.
This is the first time that eight matches of the Pakistan Super League are being staged in Karachi and Lahore, the two cities which constitute the biggest and the most bitter cricketing rivalry in the country. Disappointingly enough, the last round of the matches on home soil doesn’t include even a single Karachi-Lahore match. Would you believe it? You have to, because this is the case. The second leg of the PSL-4 match between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars has already been played in Sharjah, which proved to be a cracking game of cricket where Karachi Kings settled the score against Lahore Qalandars.
The much-anticipated matches between Lahore and Karachi and Peshawar and Quetta should have been better placed in the schedule to involve the greatest number of cricket fans in Pakistan. Especially, the second leg of the Karachi-Lahore match should have been scheduled right at the end of the schedule, so as to stage this marquee fixture in Pakistan, either in Lahore or Karachi. In fact, both of the Karachi-Lahore matches should have been played in Pakistan. Just imagine how much interest these matches would have drawn with one of these games in Lahore and the other in Karachi.
In my view, the Pakistan Cricket Board has missed out on a huge opportunity to involve the local cricket fans in the Pakistan Super League this year. A lot could have been achieved by staging the key games in Pakistan, which would have created a genuine rivalry among the participating franchises. The gigantic amount of interest in Lahore-Karachi matches is no way less than a Pakistan-India cricket match. The long-standing rivalry should have been cashed on by the Pakistani cricketing authorities, which they didn’t.
Although the final few games, which are to be staged in Lahore and Karachi, would still draw a great interest from the local cricket fans, but things would have been even better if the PCB had made Karachi and Lahore play each other on home and away basis right towards the end of the tournament. It would have resulted in a massive public interest and there was no reason why the stadiums couldn’t be filled out to the maximum capacity.
One of the last few matches is between Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans, which would be played at Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium on March 10. I can tell in advance that this match is going to be the most followed game of the later part of the PSL-4, because a bitter rivalry already exists between the citizens of Lahore and Multan which would be displayed during the match. In fact, it would be the final league match of the season 4 and the two involved teams might have to win this one to enter the playoffs. The anticipation would be record high. This is exactly what I’m talking about. If a Lahore-Multan match could derive such a huge interest, then imagine what a Karachi-Lahore fixture would have accomplished at cricket fans’ level.
Similarly, Karachi Kings will host Quetta Gladiators in the “Battle of the South” on the final day of the league matches on March 10. This would be another prime example of why such high-profile matches should have been staged on the Pakistani soil.
A lot is at stake in these final few league games in the fourth season of the Pakistan Super League. Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators are on top of the points table with five wins each for now, but everything could be changed very quickly if any of Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi lose their last three matches. Peshawar Zalmi will take on Quetta Gladiators in Abu Dhabi on March 4 before taking on Lahore Qalandars at the same venue on March 5. They would be up against Karachi Kings in their last game of the league stage in Karachi on March 7. Similarly, Quetta Gladiators will play Peshawar Zalmi in Abu Dhabi on March 4 before challenging defending champions Islamabad United at the same venue on March 5, whereas their last league match will be against Karachi Kings in Karachi on March 10.
The fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League has literally become a five-way battle for the playoffs qualification as all the five teams can qualify into the next stage. Multan Sultans, on the other hand, have a very slim chance of making it into the playoffs this year as they have only two games left with only four points. At the most they can beat Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars in their last two matches to finish with eight points, but their two opponents, who have six points each, can still win their other two matches to keep Sultans out of the equation. Even Islamabad United are sitting pretty with eight points from eight matches. Their last two matches are against Quetta Gladiators and Lahore Qalandars and a victory in any of these matches would ensure them a passage into the playoffs.
The Pakistan Super League 4 is hotter than ever and the final few frontiers on the home soil are all set to create enough frenzy among the local cricket fans to make it yet another blockbuster edition of the Twenty20 cricket league. However, I still believe that a bit more effort on the fixtures would have helped the Pakistan Cricket Board make extra bucks, which was one of the core reasons behind the creation of this tournament.