Pakistan Super League – Version 2.0

Excitement, emotion, exhilaration… a handful of words associated with the inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) which was played at the Arabian Peninsula of United Arab Emirates (UAE). The land associated with sun, sand and sea, saw five teams competing for the glory. Prior to the start, the champions Islamabad United were as little known as Yasir Hussain who hosted the opening ceremony. Under the captaincy of ever so calm Misbah ul Haq, who took them over the line, Islamabad United had a relatively low profile before and during the early stages of the tournament, the team did not attract much media attention and even today, masses don’t know much about the owners of the team, Leonine Global Investments.

PSL was a success for PCB, both financially and reputationally. It is worth mentioning that PCB, under the leadership of Dr Nasim Ashraf, was one of the first cricket boards who initiated the idea of a domestic T20 cricket league after the success of inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa 2007. As with the team’s performance on the field, lack of consistency in leadership, vision and continuation of policies, the idea was shelved a few times before Najam Sethi took over and wisely put flesh on the bones of a Pakistani, our own cricket league. One of the stand out attributes of PSL was the drafting system, which meant that teams were balanced. By categorizing players (and likewise capping their salaries), it was a level playing field for all franchises and no team was disadvantaged on monetary front. PSL was organised side by side with Masters Cricket League (MCL), where an auction system was used to pick the players. It was clearly evident that teams weren’t balanced as there was no competition against Gemini Arabians, a star studded team which went on to win it.

PSL, in the first year was bound to be a success. A nation where cricket is only second to religion, starved from playing at home, their players not able to participate in a high profile league in the neighbourhood and more importantly disheartening results in the shorter forms of the game needed a breath of fresh air in the form of a T20 league which can showcase top players from the domestic circuit and unearth new pool of talent.

It’s all done and over… the real test of PCB’s professionalism is yet to be tested. Now it’s about consolidating on first year’s success to further improve at the second. At first, there were no expectations, now there are, a precedent has been set, players, spectators, and sponsors, franchise owners will expect PCB to build on the success of version 1 and deliver a better version 2.

First of all, PCB must (and must!) stick to their word in terms of increasing the number of teams to 6 at the third PSL event, not the second. This is very important because franchise owners have modelled their finances on that basis and further sharing of their revenue will reduce confidence in PCB’s commercial sensibility. Yes, people are excited and emotional about the success of the first edition but there is more to it for investors who have taken a big risk in supporting this league. Not to forget, PSL is being played in a foreign country where cost of business are significantly higher and beyond PCB’s control, so there is an added responsibility on PCB to remain professional and stick to their terms of agreement.

There is an opportunity for PCB to highlight the success of first edition to increase revenue through sponsorship in the second edition. Even with empty seats during week day games, PCB exceeded their revenue estimates by 30% and expenses by 16%. As off today, the chances of MCL – Edition 2 are pretty slim so this should help PCB with gate revenues. Participation of high profile players adds value to the league. What they share with our youngsters on and off the field is the crux of PSL. Hopefully PCB are at work to attract current and recently retired players such as Mahela Jayawadene, Mitchell Johnson, and Brendan McCullum to name some. Where we stand with futures fixtures at the moment, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia will be playing international cricket, if PSL 2 is organised in February 2017, key players from West Indies, Englandand New Zealand are likely to feature.

As emotional as we are as a nation, we need to be realistic too. A tournament of 20 odd days will not give us quality players who will be ready to compete at the highest level. I personally feel that real talent of Pakistan will be uncovered when other franchises follow the footsteps of Peshawar Zalmi and conduct trials/workshops in rural areas of Pakistan because that’s where our raw talent lies which will be polished on the stage of PSL.

Nothing but eagerly looking forward to PSL – Version 2.

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