Why HBL PSL is the Post-Covid Love Story We’re Loving!
Year 2020 was an interesting year.
No two opinions about that.
In the United Kingdom, the genie of Brexit was full and truly out of the bottle and people were bracing for impact and right then, the world was gripped by the corona virus pandemic. Everywhere there were lockdowns, millions catching a strange infection and people dying in thousands.
The hospitality industry, travelling, trade in fact the whole global economy coming to a grinding halt.
How Did Pakistan Fare?
In Pakistan, thankfully, the effect of the pandemic was somewhat subdued. Pakistanis were cautiously optimistic that the virus would not affect them too badly, we watched nations all over the world struggle, devised an indigenous strategy of implementing, ‘smart lockdowns’ and dealt with the problem with our characteristic chutzpah with comparatively lower cost.
Probably the biggest impact that Pakistanis felt was, that after gleefully welcoming the return of international cricket to our domestic grounds, we sadly, could not watch the tournament to its completion. The government deemed public gatherings too risky and responsibly decided to postpone the games, unfortunately, right at the stage when the tournament was reaching its crescendo. The games were completed later in the year, but that resulted in a rather tame and subdued finale to what would have been a grand dhamaka, had it happened in late March.
Well, the ‘interesting’ year is thankfully behind us.
We have hope and optimism in the air now
Effective vaccines against the deadly virus have been developed and it seems that the world is slowly limping out of lockdown. The terrible winters are behind us, there is spring in the air, green shoots can be seen budding on the plants and a brand new HBL PSL 6 is in full swing.
It seems that the eyes of the world are upon us. People feeling down and depressed are welcoming the return of festivities. Fans, tired of following their teams in empty stadia are enthusiastically looking forward to the games being broadcast live with accompanying crowd noise that adds to the jazba.
Yes, the crowds are only a small percentage of the actual capacity but when it comes to the El Classico of HBL PSL; Karachi Kings vs Lahore Qalandars, then the enthusiasm would reach fever pitch.
Continuous bugle playing, raucous throngs of cricket fans, the sight of unfurling flags, and the entire dhol dhamukka is a bold announcement to the entire world to rejoice.
As the tournament progresses and moves to the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore, with 50% capacity fans allowed, I hope that the zinda dilaan e Lahore would add their special flair to the crowd participation.
As far as Cricket is concerned, fans around the world have been entertained to high quality games. Even at this early stage of the tournament, we have had so many close finishes. High scoring games with powerful hitting , pulsating run chases, spectacular catches but most of all, a scintillating, heart warming display of what Pakistanis do best … bowling FAST!
The sight of a pumped up Shaheen Shah Afridi bowling out the best batsman in the world, Babar Azam with a mean seaming in-coming guided missile of a ball and then playfully wrapping his arm around the dismissed maestro are defining moments of the tournament.
That is EXACTLY what fans from around the world tune in to see – a high class encounter. When Imad Waseem runs out his opposing skipper with a razor sharp underarm throw and Muhammad Amir dismisses the next batsman with one of his signature in-seaming deliveries for a golden duck then the fans are bound to blow the roof over their heads.
This is pure box office fun and I am sure that the bosses of global TV franchises who gave their nod to televising PSL games around the globe must be smiling broadly. News of such acts of sporting brilliance in the community of cricket fans, spread like wild fire and the number of TV audience is bound to go up and up.
A softer image
Just imagine what a fantastic advertisement this is to promote the soft image of Pakistan.
Under a full moon, the original city of lights sparkling, showing life in all its glory, a brightly-lit National stadium, filled with enthusiastic Karachiites, families enjoying world class athletes displaying their sporting skills.
Players from around the world will be showcased, participating in games with emerging players from North Waziristan, Dir, Swat, rural Sind, Baluchistan, south Punjab along with the original cricket nurseries of Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. What an opportunity for the likes of Shahnawaz Dhani, Muhammad Imran and Arshad Iqbal to hone their skills & test their big match potential.
Here I must congratulate the Pakistan Cricket Board who have done everything possible to ensure the successful organisation of a world class tournament. From arranging players drafts, to securing the bio safety bubbles, to getting high quality TV coverage … organization has been superlative.
The masterstroke was to include participation of big name TV experts like David Gower, Alan Walkins and Dominic Cork whose witty and highly knowledgeable commentary is no doubt enhancing the PSL 6 experience and emitting a higher level of credibility to the quality of these fixtures. Participation by female commentators and presenters like Sana Mir, Urooj Mumtaz and Zainab Abbas showcases the prominent role that women play in sports participation and is a very welcome change.
It seems that the years of ‘dust and thorns’ for Pakistan cricket after the horrendous terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in 2009 are finally coming to an end. To have a tournament like HBL PSL 6 in Pakistan has taken sagacious vision, a lot of hard work and a great deal of effort. It has not been easy. But it has been a job well done.
Now, we want to see a game or two in that stadium of Gwadar.
When the world sees those monumental cliffs in the backdrop of a pearl of a cricket ground under flood lights, with the high-pitched sound of “Ajj waikhay ga crowd” sung by Naseebo Lal right in the heart of Balochistan, they would know that Pakistan is alive, and rising. Insha’Allah
Dr. Sajid Butt is a consultant-radiologist based in London, U.K.