So far, the PSL has been lackluster
Lahore: The HBL Pakistan Super League (2019) star-studded opening ceremony held in UAE on 14th Feb.
The most awaited tournament of Pakistan has begun. Pakistan Super League (PSL) ‘s fourth edition was supposed to start with a bang but so far, it has been more of a damp squib. A disastrous opening and administrative errors have left a lot to be desired. At the stadium itself, many are asking questions about what went wrong.
But so far, there have been no answers.
In the preceding three years, PSL had established itself as not just a tournament but as a two month long festival. A cricket crazy nation, starved of home matches since almost a decade, welcomed their own version of a premier league with open arms. And, a few errors aside, the tournament delivered on all expectations of its fans.
Much of the credit, of course, goes to the then Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) NajamSethi. At the time that he was putting the final touches on the PSL, it was thought that PCB would not be able to deliver on its promise of a world class league. But the PSL's first edition was a humongous success and increased the revenue of Pakistan Cricket Board like never before. It also gave us much needed domestic talent, and brought players like Hassan Ali and Shadab Khan to the limelight, securing places for them in the national team.
But then, the general elections saw the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf forming the government at the center. At that point it was an accepted fact that NajamSethi will not be able to continue for long. Post Sethi’s departure, doubts were raised about whether Ehsan Mani and the new team at the PCB would be able to carry on with the legacy of the previous seasons.
The answer, unfortunately, is absolutely not.
PSL 2019 started with an opening ceremony held at Dubai Cricket Stadium in Dubai Sports City. It was a wonderful event for TV but not for the spectators present in the stadium. Initially it was announced that ‘Mr. Worldwide’Pitbull was going to perform in the opening ceremony along with Junoon and some other local and international artists. The lineup had fans salivating. But, it was not to be. Pitbull didn't come after giving out the most flimsy of excuses. The rest of the group was simply not good enough for a premier sports league.
Junoon put in a halfhearted, lip synced performance that was underwhelming. Boney M did not resonate with the audience.The crowd's energy and passion we saw in the previous editions was not present this time round. The entire event was lackluster, as was the crowd.
And the most criticized action of PCB was that the brain behind Pakistan Super League,NajamSethi, was not invited in the opening ceremony. It would not have been possible to kickstart this brand of Pakistan Cricket, if it wasn't for the former chairman. He was the man who brought Cricket back to Pakistan with PSL and International tours. It would have been a great gesture of respect and recognition from Pakistan Cricket Board to invite him, in the process giving appreciation where it is due.
The second day of Pakistan Super League was not much better. It was aFriday, a holiday in United Arab Emirates and a perfect day for sports fans to enjoy the game and catch their favorite superstars live. But guess what? Crowd didn't even come on Friday. Yes, and that is a shame. Believe me.
The only reason that I can understand for this kind of a failure is the lack of advertisement and marketing. There is absolutely zero promotional attempts in this year's Pakistan Super League. To fail at such a basic component of a tournament is astounding.
It seems like the change in Islamabad haven't been so good for PCB. Change in leadership and the policy of cutting down the expense has reduced the attraction of PSL for the audience. So far, this is not the event that we were expecting but we really hope that the matches arranged in Lahore and Karachi will be a huge success and people will come in droves to see the superstars in action.
But, what if, God forbid, the other scenario comes true? What if administrative blunders result in empty stands? That would be a disaster not only for the PCB but also for the cricket in Pakistan. So far, the tickets available online are not being bought in the numbers they should have been.
As someone who loves this game, and has followed with a passion, I really don't want to see the kind of response in Karachi and Lahore that we have seen in UAE.
Usama Virk is a sports journalist associated with GNN.He tweets @BeingUsamaVirk