Pakistan Super League explodes into action in Dubai today  [DailyTimes] 04 Feb, 2016

LAHORE: The inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) will roll into action with the first clash between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators at Dubai Cricket Stadium in Dubai on Thursday (today). The Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) first Twenty20 League will be played from Feb 4 to 24 with a total of 24 matches to be played in Dubai and Sharjah. With the hosting of the event, the United Arab Emirates has moved into the lucrative international Twenty20 cricket market. PSL governing council chairman Najam Sethi and his team should be complimented for the launch of country's first T20 league. Despite harsh criticism and hurdles, Sethi had vowed to deliver 'the biggest and most exciting product in Pakistan's history' and promised to bring in stars of the T20 format in order to boost the value of the tournament. Sethi's critics were not convinced. They were not even expecting the PSL to be held in February this year. But Sethi has delivered and proved his critics wrong.
With the first edition of the PSL, the cash-strapped PCB seeks to boost revenues and reverse the national team's slide in the game's shortest format. The long-awaited inaugural PSL follows two previous attempts that fell through over a lack of sponsorship and the suspension of international cricket at home in the wake of a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team almost seven years ago. With Pakistan's once-dominant Twenty20 side sliding to a lowly seventh place in world rankings following their recent series loss against New Zealand, organisers are keen for local talent to hone their skills alongside the world's best players.
The PSL is not just about cricket. It is something bigger than the game especially in Pakistan where the standard of national T20 cricket is much lower than the rest of the world. Playing and fielding techniques are not good, patience doesn't seem to be a virtue of national cricketers and the fitness standards are below par. The PSL will change all that as the involvement of foreign cricketers will make it far more interesting; not only will the bar be raised on the playing standards but sharing dressing rooms with cricketers who have won matches for their country will give Pakistan youngsters a chance to learn from the masters. Furthermore, the financial stability of the league will bring with it is likely to raise the living standards of cricketers and their happiness will ensure that Pakistan cricket is in good hands. The much-anticipated PSL is all set to take cricket of this country to the next level.
Not everyone is as optimistic, with organisers privately admitting that in order to be viable the tournament will need to return to Pakistan for greater gate and TV revenues, while rampant piracy puts a question mark over the profitability of kit merchandising. With lower salary caps than leagues elsewhere, it will also need to steer clear of the ever-present threat of fixing that has hit its predecessor leagues in India and Bangladesh, resulting in bans for the likes of international stars Shanthakumaran Sreesanth of India and Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh.
The tournament consists of five teams, one each from Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, and Islamabad, featuring 69 local and 29 foreign stars. The teams were sold to private consortiums for a sum of $93 million across 10 years, with $200,000 salaries for top-tier players and relatively handsome paydays for middle-tier and emerging talent. The winning side, meanwhile, will bring home $1 million. The players were selected through a draft process in December. Some of the big names to play the PSL are Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Luke Wright, Shakib al Hassan, Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine, and Angelo Mathews. Each franchise was able to draft players and coaches for the team within a budget of $1 million. The PSL had initially contacted top agencies handling over 100 international players to consider playing in Pakistan. The response was overwhelmingly negative, which forced the PSL to be held outside Pakistan.
The PSL isn't as high profile as the previous one during Zaka Ashraf's regime under which the business model - unveiled in January 2013 - was expected to fetch the PCB 'in excess of $100 million'. The PCB had hired the trusted and globally recognised company 'Repucom' to devise a plan for the T20 league, consulting them on matters such as where the tournament should be held, the number of teams that should participate in it, the risk factors involved and how they can be avoided, and how the PCB can attract and engage sponsors and improve the marketability of the product.
The PSL used the draft system for player recruitment rather than the auctions deployed by the Indian Premier League. It was similar to what is in place in American National Football League (NFL). The draft system was introduced in the NFL in 1936 and has been successfully deployed as an alternate to auctioning players. Players were divided across five categories - Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver, and Emerging. A ballot decided which team gets to pick the first player, with a specific number of players up for grabs from each category. The player auction system has never been implemented in Pakistan and in an effort to keep a check on the spending; the much safer and balanced draft system was used for the inaugural system. There is also some good news for local players as they are likely to earn big during the 21-day event. Young domestic players, placed in the emerging category, are in line to earn between $15,000 and $20,000 when they line up for the five franchises. In the opening edition, each side will feature 12 Pakistan players and four foreign ones.
Karachi Kings, captained by Pakistan's all-rounder, Shoaib Malik, is a definite threat to the other outfits in the tournament. With the services of world-class all-rounders such as Shakibal Hasan, Imad Wasim and Ravi Bopara, the team is going to add a lot of excitement. The inclusion of Mohammad Aamir and Sohail Tanvir will give a great boost to their bowling attack as well. Pakistan's Test captain Misbahul Haq is leading Islamabad United. This team boasts of Shane Watson as their most celebrated player. Being touted as the most complete team of the tournament, Islamabad United enjoy the availability of massive talent in terms of batting and bowling. Andre Russel, Samuel Badree, Mohammad Irfan, Umar Amin and the form-finding Saeed Ajmal are top-rated players who will help Islamabad chase the title.The most talked about team of the tournament, Peshawar Zalmi, have promised entertainment and victory under the captaincy of Boom Boom Shahid Afridi, the captain of the team. Wahab Riaz, Shaun William Tait and Junaid Khan will deliver pace for the team with the Kookaburra ball while Afridi, Darren Sammy, Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez along with Tamim Iqbal will be in charge of the batting line-up. Quetta Gladiators are being led by Pakistan's wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed. English batting star, Kevin Pietersen, was opted by Quetta as their iconic player. Still, this team is being called the underdog of the tournament. With batsmen such as Sarfraz, Pietersen, Ahmed Shahzad, Asad Shafiq and Saad Nasim and bowlers like Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar and Jason Holder on the team, Quetta Gladiators can work themselves up to becoming the dark horses of the event. Lastly, the most promising yet unbalanced team in the league are Lahore Qalandars. The team are led by Pakistan's ODI captain Azhar Ali who has never appeared in an international T20 for the country.

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