In arguably the most significant step towards the PSL returning in full to Pakistan, the owners of the franchises in conjunction with the PCB reaffirmed their commitment to playing the fifth edition of the tournament in the country. Four venues – Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Rawalpindi – have been nominated to cover the entire tournament spanning 34 games, though the UAE remains as a back-up option.
The PCB chairman met all franchise owners on Monday to discuss the plans for the tournament slated to begin on February 20 in Karachi. As things stand, Lahore stands to stage 13 matches.
Multan, which last hosted international cricket in 2008, is also believed to be ready to host the tournament. The stadium in Rawalpindi, meanwhile, is being renovated to ensure it is prepared to host matches.
Over the years, the PCB has used the PSL as a platform to revive international cricket in the country. The ball got rolling in 2017 when the Gadaffi Stadium hosted the final. In the following season, four games were held across Karachi and Lahore.
Earlier this year, the final eight games were scheduled to be played in Lahore and Karachi. However, they were all moved to Karachi following political tensions with India, which shares a border with Lahore.
The 2017 PSL final paved way for an ICC-approved World XI to tour Pakistan for three T20Is, while West Indies and Sri Lanka have also toured the country to play T20Is since. Prior to that, only Zimbabwe visited Pakistan in 2015 for three ODIs and two T20Is since the 2009 terror attack, and while the games themselves went off without a hitch, a a bomb explosion two kilometres from the stadium killed one policeman.
While the World XI series saw an influx of high-profile players, including a strong South African contingent led by Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla, as well as Tamim Iqbal, Thisara Perera and current Australian Test captain Tim Paine, many others high-profile players have been reluctant to tour Pakistan in the past.
To PCB’s credit, they managed to convince all the foreign players who featured in the 2018 season to tour Pakistan. Among them was Shane Watson, who had earlier expressed his reservations of playing in the country.
During the meeting, the franchises touched upon various other issues, including reworking their 10-year contracts with the PCB, seeking perpetuity rights, abolishing bank guarantees, and pegging dollar rate on payments and taxation.
Since it was an informal meeting, all these matters will be taken up when the PSL’s general council meets later this month, with a working group constituted to deliberate matters.