The T20 Extravaganza of Pakistan Super League started in 2016 in Dubai and Sharjah which house a huge number of expatriates from South Asian nations, including Pakistan. The tournament now has entered its fifth season (PSL 5) where six teams will be warring against each other for the ultimate T20 glory in Pakistan. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s Quetta Gladiators will defend their title, which they lifted after beating Peshawar Zalmi in the final of the PSL 2019.
The beginning of the league:
It was September of 2015 when the idea of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was launched and announced to the public by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The announcement was made under the sponsorship of Habib Bank Limited.
The league was set to follow in the footsteps and over a similar pattern induced by Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) and Big Bash League (BBL) by Australia. Shortly after all-star cricket players and national team captains Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja signed a three-year contract with PSL to promote the league, talk about a smooth start? The player draft for HBL PSL 2016 took place at Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore on 21-22nd of December 2015. The player draft consisted of a total of 308 players as well as 30 coaches, both national and international, that were divided into five main categories; Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver, and Emerging.
With a total of five PSL teams, there were five renowned players. Each team could select one iconic player and six foreigners in a 20-man squad, 16 of which were to be on-ground and active while the remaining four were supplementary. Every team franchise possessed a salary cap capacity of $1.2M that included taking on players, coaches, and supporting staff. During the draft, it was no surprise that Boom Boom Shahid Khan Afridi was the first player to be picked while the Australian cricketer, Shane Watson was the first foreign player to be chosen.
While it may be ironic how Pakistan Super League was not actually held in Pakistan (but wait, keep reading! There was a catch in the opening ceremony), what was even more amusing was that the HBL PSL was not even initially planned to be held in Pakistan, to begin with. The entire tournament was scheduled to take place at Doha, Qatar in a single stadium but PCB soon announced the shift in venues and the league was now to be held in United Arab Emirates (UAE) alternatively at The Dubai International Cricket Stadium (formerly known as Dubai Sports City Stadium) and The Sharjah Cricket Stadium. While the player draft itself was launched in Lahore, Pakistan.
PSL 2016’s opening ceremony kickstarted with a huge bang! It was held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on the 4th of February 2016. The event was hosted by Pakistani celebrity-host Yasir Hussain and co-hosted by Sri-Lankan model Stephanie Siriwardhana and Sanam Saeed. From amusing performances by celebrities such as the iconic duo Sanam Saeed and Mohib Mirza, A rockstar show put up by Ali Zafar (pun intended) and, of course, a starstruck musical performance by Jamaican rapper, Sean Paul. Celebrities, ambassadors, all-star international cricket players, politicians, and royals were all spotted at the event.
The air was electrifying, and the opening ceremony stadium tickets were sold out with a crowd of a whooping 19 thousand patriotic fans! All five teams made a show-stopping entrance with their own chants and tunes while the crowd went wild, supporting their personal favorite city and team. Apart from the fans, celebrities, and even the foreign players seemed to have enjoyed the show. The audience was provided with wristbands that began to glow green while the national anthem echoed in the entire stadium. Goosebumps and tears of joy took over everyone’s emotions, whether they were witnessing it live or watching at home. PCB chairman, Najam Sethi gave a heartwarming speech to the public and regretted how some (undisclosed) technicalities could not bring PSL to Pakistan however promised the fans that at least one or two matches of the next year’s PSL (PSL 2017) would be held in Pakistan and cricket would come home. He further stated that by the third year (PSL 2018), Pakistan would already be home to its very own league. The night ended with a magical performance by Pakistani singer, Ali Zafar who sang some of his hit singles and fascinated the crowd with the first-ever anthem for HBL PSL 2016 ‘Ab Khel Jamay Ga’ that left everyone watching mesmerized. Last but not least, fans enjoyed an electrifying performance of stunning, colorful fireworks. It surely was a night to remember.
The teams introduced for HBL PSL 2016 were as follows:
- Islamabad United
- Karachi Kings
- Lahore Qalandars
- Peshawar Zalmi
- Quetta Gladiators
The franchise for Islamabad united was owned by Ali Naqvi and Amna Naqvi, founders of leonine global investments that got hold of this franchise for $15 million for a ten year period in 2015 through its sports entity, leonine global sports. The franchise’s main sponsor for 2016 was Dostea, while Cinepax and GLO were merchandise sponsors. Islamabad’s team had some pretty iconic and solid players. With all-star Pakistani cricketer Misbah-Ul-Haq being the team captain, Previous Australian batsmen, Dean Jones as the head coach, and 100mph, Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar as the team’s bowling coach. The team consisted of a total of 20 players with some famous overseas faces such as Andre Russell, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, and national players that included Babar Azam, Mohammad Sami, and many more. Ali Zafar, being the official singer for the HBL PSL 2016 anthem, also composed a wonderful tune for Islamabad united, ‘Chakka Choka.’ Star-studded celebrities such as Ali Zafar and Fawad Khan were named star ambassadors for Islamabad united’s team in 2016.
Karachi Kings was undoubtedly one of the most loved teams from the HBL PSL 2016. The franchise was the most expensive and was bought by Salman Iqbal, owner of ARY, for $26 million for ten years. Bahria town was the leading sponsor for Karachi Kings in HBL PSL 2016. The team captain for Karachi was all-rounder Shoaib Malik. Iconic national players like Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim were also chosen for this franchise. Newer emerging players were also chosen for the squad, and overseas players such as Ravi Bopara and Lendl Simmons were the heart of the team. The melodious anthem for Karachi Kings was sung by Pakistani singer Ali Azmat ‘Dilon ke hain hum Badshah.’ Among brand ambassadors, Fahad Mustafa and other famous Pakistani celebrities showed their support for Karachi kings.
Lahore Qalandars was bought and owned by Rana Fawad and Qatar oil lubricants for $25 million, making it the second most expensive franchise. With Mobilink being its title sponsor. Lahore Qalandars team was captained by Azhar Ali and consisted of other Pakistani players such as Umar Akmal and Yasir Shah. The famous and internationally recognized batsmen Chris Gayle was picked by Lahore Qalandars during the HBL PSL 2016 draft. The official anthem for Lahore Qalandars ‘Dama Dam Mast’ was sung in two versions one by Asrar and the other by Nabeel Shaukat Ali.
Peshawar Zalmi was another loved franchise by the public, and the reason is… well, we will get to that in less than a minute. CEO Haier, Javed Afridi, bought the franchise for $16 million over a ten year period. Haier itself played as the leading sponsor for Peshawar Zalmi. The team captain was none other than the most loved Shahid Afridi, which was also the reason why Peshawar Zalmi attracted fans from all over the country and not just Peshawar. Other national players for the team included Muhammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, and Wahab Riaz, while foreign players consisted of Windies, Darren Sammy, Brad Hodge, and Dawid Malan. The anthem for Peshwar Zalmi was quite traditional and stayed true to its heritage; it was sung by Arbaz khan ft. Zohaib Amjad. Noble peace prize award winner, Malala Yousfuzai, was the brand ambassador for Peshawar Zalmi in 2016.
Quetta Gladiators was the least expensive team and cost $11 million to Omar Associates, with Nadeem Omar being the prominent owner of the team. The team was headed by the then Pakistani national captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, and head coached by all-star, Pakistani wicketkeeper-batsman Moin Khan. Quetta Gladiators had picked quite an outstanding team relatively, with players such as Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, and foreign players that included the famous Kumar Sanggakara, Grant Elliot, Kevin Pieterson, Elton Chigumbura and a lot more. Jubilee insurance was the title sponsor for the franchise in 2016. The title song ‘Chaa Jaye Quetta’ was sung by Faakhir Mehmood and Faheem Allan Fakir. Fakhir Mehmood was also the brand ambassador for the franchise.
The teams and their Journey throughout the tournament:
The initial game was quite hectic and nail-biting for all of the teams. Each team was to play the other team twice in a robin round format, being in the league stage, and then the top 4 were to qualify in the group/eliminator stage, before reaching the qualifying rounds, as per the points table. Each win gave the team 2 points, one point for no result, and no points for a loss. In the event of a tie, a super-over was to be played to determine the winner. Lahore Qalandars had a pretty rough journey overall and even Gayle could not be of any help. They only managed to win 2 matches out of 8, the first victory being against Quetta Gladiators. Similarly, Karachi Kings, too, was only able to win 2 two matches out of 8; Mohammad Amir’s first hat-trick for HBL PSL against Lahore remained an iconic moment for PSL history. Mohammad Amir was one of the most loved players in the Karachi Kings team standing alongside English cricketer, Ravi Bopara. Karachi kings could have been eliminated from the second stage but were one of the 4 teams that qualified to the eliminator rounds due to Lahore Qalandar’s 5 wicket defeat against Islamabad united. Peshawar Zalmi had a solid start and was a foreseeable finalist. Peshawar won 6 of the 8 matches played in the group stage. Peshawar Zalmi then had a downfall during the Play-offs when they lost their first match in the eliminators against Quetta Gladiators by one run. Peshawar being first in the group stage points table, had to face Islamabad United in the second qualifier match, which they too lost and were ultimately eliminated from the tournament along with Karachi Kings. Quetta Gladiators was right below Peshawar Zalmi just due to the run rate difference, even though both teams scored equal (12) points. Quetta had pretty comfortable wins in most of the matches played and gave the fans head-to-head, stomach-churning contests. Islamabad United had a very awful, rough start to begin with. Winning 4 matches out of 8 and finishing third in the robin round stage. In the second qualifier/eliminator match, Sharjeel Khan’s 117 runs off of 62 balls, being the first century scored for HBL PSL history won the match for Islamabad United against Peshawar Zalmi, the consecutive wins in the second stage led Islamabad united to the finals against Quetta Gladiators.
The HBL PSL Final (2016)
The final match took place in Dubai international cricket stadium on the 23rd of February 2016. The match was set off against arch-rivals Quetta Gladiators vs. Islamabad united who came head to head in a close, nail-biting match. Islamabad United managed to defeat Quetta Gladiators by 6 wickets, and Islamabad United was crowned the winner of the first edition of HBL PSL in 2016.
Final Match Summary:
The star-studded HBL PSL final match managed to sell out the entire stadium with a final attendance of 25,000 people. The traffic in Dubai around the stadium was pretty distorted as cricket fanatics were anxious to witness the teeth-clenching final.
The match kickstarted with Islamabad united winning the toss and electing to field as Misbah-ul-Haq, team captain for Islamabad United, took on to explain how the development of dew later on in the second innings could give the team coarse fielding conditions. Quetta Gladiators batted first in the T-20 game with Ahmed Shehzad and Bismillah Khan opening for the final tournament. Unfortunately for some, Khan was dismissed caught behind 0 in the first over bowled by Muhammad Irfan. Kevin Pieterson then joined opener Ahmed Shehzad, but KP, too, was shortly dismissed after run-a-ball 18. Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and Ahmed Shehzad both scored 50+, which allowed Quetta to score a total of 174 runs in 20 overs, leaving Islamabad united with a final target of 175 runs to chase.
Islamabad opened the second innings with Sharjeel Khan and Dwayne Smith. After hitting some consecutive boundaries in Anwar Ali’s first over, Sharjeel Khan was soon dismissed by Nathan McCullum after scoring 11 off of 12. Brad Haddin then joined Smith, and both were able to score 74 and 61 runs, but Smith was soon dismissed, and the captain stepped in to finish off the game for Islamabad United for the last winning runs in the 19th over. The nail-biting last over led to the ultimate win for Islamabad United.
- Man of the match (final): The player of the match was Islamabad United’s Dwayne smith after scoring 73 runs from 51 balls 4 sixes and 7 fours.
- Player of the tournament: Ravi Bopara of Karachi Kings scored 329 runs and took 11 wickets in the first edition of HBL PSL, making him the most iconic player of the tournament and certainly won’s every Karachite’s heart.
- Leading Wicket Taker: Andre Russell of Islamabad United took 16 wickets at an average of 17.25, while Wahab Riaz of Peshawar Zalmi fell short and lagged just behind Russell by bagging 15 wickets.
- Leading Run Scorer: Umar Akmal from Lahore Qalandars was the leading run-scorer of the tournament and managed to score 335 runs at an average of 83.75 and also took 7 catches, thus also being the player who took the most catches in the tournament.
- Spirit of Cricket: Despite numerous losses, the winners of the spirit of cricket award were given to Lahore Qalandars. For their Fair play and high sportsmanship spirit throughout the tournament.
The sold-out stadium and contentment of the players, as well as the crowd, proved to be a huge success for the first edition of the HBL PSL 2016 and was beneficial for other seasons to follow.