Pakistan Super League (PSL) had challenged Indian Premier League (IPL) in the first edition as it attracted more spectators in UAE, than IPL had done in Dubai and Sharjah, but it could not be compared with attendance at home.
PSL matches with international players in Pakistan looked like a distant dream due to the security situation but Najam Sethi had been promising for a long time that Pakistani spectators would witness top cricket stars in front of them soon.
It looked difficult when Najam Sethi promised that PSL final would be held in Pakistan, at the opening ceremony of PSL 2017 but things got worse only few weeks before the PSL final when there was a blast on Mall Road, which resulted in deaths of 13 people, including two senior police officials.
After a series of blasts all over the country, PSL final in Pakistan, even without International players, looked impossible. But Punjab government refused to give up and decided to make best possible arrangements for the PSL final.
Foreign players of Quetta Gladiators refused to come to Pakistan as soon as they reached final, as Kevin Pietersen left for England on the same night whereas Luke Wright, Rilee Rossouw and Tymal Mills also backed out.
Peshawar Zalmi players had promised at the start of the tournament that they would visit Pakistan if they reach final and Darren Sammy was probably given captaincy for the same reason. All four international players fulfilled their promise and came to Pakistan on the night of the final.
Quetta Gladiators selected Bangladesh’s Anam ul-Haque, Zimbabwe’s Sean Ervine, South Africa’s Morne Van Wyk and West Indian bowler Rayad Emrit. Although their team was not as strong as Peshawar’s, yet all eight international cricketers came to Pakistan.
Even though the match was not as thrilling as other matches of the league, probably because of the imbalance between the two teams, the excitement of people was at peak due to the involvement of international players.
All the players were satisfied with the security arrangements and looked very happy as they enjoyed every moment of their stay in Pakistan. Darren Sammy had already won hearts of Pakistani fans through his Facebook and Twitter posts but his gestures at closing ceremony made him so popular among Pakistanis that he might have been elected as Prime Minister if elections were held on the same day.
— Gumshuda (@Rabeel_Tariq) March 4, 2017
Peshawar Zalmi won at the end but real winners were people of Pakistan, armed forces, police, government and cricket board. PSL’s second edition was surely one of the best things that ever happened to Pakistan in recent history.
Pakistan found many young talented players Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hassan Khan and Usama Mir who impressed throughout the league and rose to the occasion when their teams needed them the most. Their performances proved that the future of Pakistan cricket is bright and in safe hands.
18-year-old Shadab Khan of Islamabad United was very impressive in particular, as he got 9 scalps in the tournament and also showed some skills with his bat, including a huge six to Mohammad Amir.
These youngsters can be given a chance during the tour of West Indies, where Pakistan will play four T20 matches, 3 Tests and 3 ODIs. Those who perform on the tour of West Indies may also be given a chance in Champions Trophy, at least on the bench, so that they feel the atmosphere of international cricket.
It was not only youngsters that caught the eye of selectors and spectators. A veteran, Kamran Akmal, was standout performer and ended up as the highest run-scorer of the tournament. It would be interesting to see if he could make a comeback, 14 years after he was first introduced in international cricket.
It is also pertinent to mention that Kamran Akmal’s inclusion would also be dependent on the approval of Sarfraz Ahmed, a fellow wicket-keeper, who is all set to become new ODI captain. But Kamran Akmal has already made it clear that he wants to play as specialist batsman. But they would also have to think about his fielding position.
PSL 2 also looked like a perfect farewell for Shahid Afridi, as he was among top 10 run-scorers with highest strike rate among them. He also hit 15 sixes, which was most in the tournament. But it was a sad ending as his hand got injured and he missed the final.
But overall, PSL 2017 was nothing less than a treat for Pakistani cricket fans and would stay in the memories for a long time, whether it would be the bat drop of New Zealand’s Grant Elliott, pushups of Kieron Pollard or celebration of Darren Sammy, funny acts of Danny Morrison, innocence of Rana Fawad, tears of Wahab Riaz or the dance of England’s Sam Billings on Dil Dil Pakistan.