The PSL Obsession in Pakistan

Since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan faced heavy losses as far as cricket and sports were concerned. It lost the privilege of hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup, international teams were not ready to visit Pakistan, they had to shift their home ground in the UAE, and their dream of having their cricket league was further postponed. However, with the introduction of the PSL (Pakistan Super League) in 2016, everything seemed to get back on track. 

When it comes to sports in Pakistan, fans are only concerned about cricket. They have longed for Pakistan to have a cricket league of their own, so they can watch their favorite teams and cheer for their home city. Since the start of the PSL, the constant love and support of the fans is the main reason for the success of PSL. It is not only a franchise popular in Pakistan, but it is gaining popularity in the whole world as cricket fans abroad also tend to support and cheer for their own country’s players. 

History

The first season of PSL was held in the UAE, with all matches being played in Dubai or Sharjah. Fans were disappointed as none of the matches of the “Pakistan” Super League were held in Pakistan. Initially, the tournament started with five teams. In the second season in 2017, only the final was held in Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Both the fans and the Pakistan Cricket Board saw a little hope as they considered it a small step in bringing cricket back to Pakistan. 

The third and fourth season saw an expansion of the franchise with more matches being played in Pakistan, and with the introduction of a sixth team in the tournament. In 2018, the playoffs were played in Pakistan, with the final being held at the National Stadium in Karachi, the match being considered as an official return of the sport to the cricket capital of Pakistan. In 2019, eight to ten matches were played in Pakistan, and fans got a great opportunity to watch and cheer for their favorite teams and players.

Team Franchises

The tournament started with five teams: Karachi Kings, Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators, and Peshawar Zalmi. A sixth team was introduced in 2018, the third edition of the tournament, as a sign of success and expansion of the PSL franchise and to make the competition more competitive. 

Karachi Kings: It is safe to say that the Karachi Kings franchise is the most popular among all the other teams in the tournament, because of which it has a great fan following. One reason may be because the owner of Pakistan’s leading channel, ARY Digital, Salman Iqbal, owns it, and the channel greatly promotes it. Their most successful season was the 2018 season when they managed to make it to the qualifier. 

Lahore Qalandars: Lahore Qalandars are considered to be the most unsuccessful team of the tournament as they have always managed to end their season at the last spot, causing a lot of jokes and memes to be created about them on social media. However, its owner, Fawad Rana has gained a lot of respect and popularity for his extreme passion for his team and cricket in general. 

Peshawar Zalmi: Peshawar Zalmi is considered the most power-packed team in the PSL because they never fail to impress the fans by their brilliant comebacks and entertaining cricket. Most of the key players Pakistan has have emerged from this side. The Zalmis gained a lot of fans in the first season as they managed to grasp Shahid Afridi in the PSL draft, who is every Pakistani cricket fan’s favorite. 

Quetta Gladiators: Perhaps the most hardworking and the most consistent team in the PSL. They have managed to make it to the playoffs at all four occasions, being runners up two times in a row and champions in the third final they played. They are current champions and will be defending their title in the upcoming PSL season. 

Islamabad United: It is the most successful side in the tournament, with two titles to their name. They were also the first-ever PSL champions. They have achieved this primarily because of their emerging talents, who have made their way through in the Pakistan National Team. 

Multan Sultans: They were introduced as the sixth team in the 2018 edition of the tournament. Although they still have not managed to get the pull of a breakthrough in any of the two tournaments they have played, fans have huge expectations from them in the next season as they have built a strong side in the recent draft. 

Cities and fans during the tournament

When the matches are about to be played in Pakistan, the traffic is continuously flowing towards the stadiums where the game is being held. People forward Whatsapp messages about alternate routes to each other so they do not have to encounter traffic going towards the stadium. Police mobiles, rangers, and sometimes the army officers are constantly guarding and patrolling the streets and roads that go to the stadium. 

The whole cities are decorated with fairy lights and team and player posters, giving the essence of a cricket-loving nation. The main roads and bridges, such as the Shahrah-e-Faisal in Karachi, are decorated with mini stadiums, stands, PSL banners, flags, lights, and PSL songs. 

The fans go to any extent to watch their favorite team and players play. They wait in long ticket queues, security checks, and traffic and buy expensive tickets. Moreover, the sight of the stadiums is quite impressive. The stands are fully crowded and packed with tickets being sold out. And why won’t it be? They have waited long enough for their favorite sport to come back into their country, and they are finally getting a chance to support their cricket league. 

As the people of Pakistan consider, the time of PSL is a unifying force for all the Pakistanis. Even though they discuss and argue which team is better, deep down inside, they know that the success of any team will bring benefits to Pakistan and cricket. The upcoming season of PSL in the next month has ignited a wave of excitement in the fans because it is going to be bigger, with more foreign players agreeing to play in Pakistan and the fact that all matches will be held in Pakistan.   

Afshan Riaz Bhayani
Afshan Riaz Bhayani

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