Pakistan Super League: A review before the final


LAHORE: The final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is set to conclude at the Gadaffi stadium on Sunday March 5 with last year’s finalists Quetta Gladiators taking on Peshawar Zalmi in the much anticipated match. While the fuss over the final being held in Lahore has been overbearing, this year’s tournament had its foundations tested with major blows coming from a both a depleting pool of foreign players and spot-fixing allegations.

This year’s player draft concluded with high expectations after the 2016 editions unanticipated success. The excitement only grew coming out from the draft with a boost in the league’s star power after the inclusion of players like Brendon McCullam, Kumar Sangakara, Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan, and Mahela Jayawardene. McCullam and Sangakara also took over as captains for their teams while Shahid Afridi stepped down in favour of Darren Sammy.


The former New Zealand and Sri Lanka skippers came in and took over as captains of arch rivals Lahore Qalandar and Karachi Kings respectively 


However the league got off to a rocky start when a number of players were questioned regarding spot fixing. Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif of Islamabad United, were sent back to Pakistan for an inquiry and the supposed ring-leader Nasir Jamshed was even jailed. A number of other players including fast bowler Muhammad Irfan, spinner Zulfiqar Babar and batsmen Khurram Manzoor had also been questioned and later cleared.

The calling into question of the league’s credentials while it was still so young had been a major cause for concern. A fortunate shift in national attention and the mature handling of the situation by the PCB meant that the league and its reputation managed to escape the otherwise embarrassing situation relatively unscathed.


Islamabad United teammates Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif were both called back to Pakistan and issued charge sheets by the PCB.


The tournament finally caught steam after the departure of Sharjeel and Khalid with an interesting mix of both high and low scoring thrillers. The different conditions fielded by Sharjah and Dubai proved to be an interesting factor including the unexpected rain in the desert region. The active and enthusiastic participation of the UAE crowds that packed the stadium every Thursday and Friday before and on the day of their weekly holiday proved that using the UAE to host much of the league was the correct decision.

Although Brendon McCullam, Chris Gayle, Umar Akaml and Ravi Bopara were rather disappointing, the crowds were regularly enthralled by the hard hitting of Kevin Pietersen and Shahid Afridi as well as a number of entertaining knocks by the likes of Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, and Dwayne Smith. Players from the domestic circuit also showed off their skills with Fakhar Zaman putting up an impressive performances and Shadab Khan receiving global acclaim for his right arm leg-break.


Chris Gayle seemed as uncomfortable playing for Karachi Kings as he did in the Lahore jersey last year 


The criticism levied against the PSL group stages for being unimportant was also rendered void after the qualifying teams had not been decided until the last game of the group stage. The tournament produced a number of nail-biters with 12 matches going into the final over and numerous others swinging back and forth between the competitors.

bat drop

Grant Elliot’s ‘bat drop’ celebration spread like wildfire on social media after the New Zealand all-rounder won Lahore the game with a last over maximum    


The changes in group positions were testament to the league’s unpredictability. Initially Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad bounced around the first three spots and Lahore desperately clung on to fourth. A sudden jump back into the ring by Karachi and Lahore meant Lahore found itself in second place for a time, but successive comprehensive wins by Karachi took them up the table and Lahore ended up finishing last in a repeat of last year.

afridi k

Afridi’s heroics in Peshawar’s match against the Gladiators ensured his team the top spot in the group stage


The play-offs maintained the high standards set by the group stage as Peshawar lost by 1 run to Quetta in the first play-off trying to chase down a target of 201. A seemingly docile Karachi also managed to stun viewers by bowling the defending champions out for 82 to defend their meager total of 126. Peshawar however dominated the Kings in the final game, picking up a comprehensive win to book their team’s place in the final.

And while the franchise cricket tournament was once again hampered by uncertainty as to whether the final would be played in Lahore or not, the resolve of the PCB to do so has held back any real backlash. Although there is the definite drawback of international stars withdrawing from the final over security concerns, the conclusion of the final without issue would mean capping of another successful edition of a cricket league whose inception had at one point seemed impossible.