Pakistan Super League: Revisiting the long and winding road that has, at last, led us here

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Twenty-overs cricket has long been a staple of Pakistan’s informal circuit.

The Pakistan Super League (PSL) begins Thursday at Dubai, marking the culmination of a journey that began in 2005.

April 2005

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) organise the first Twenty20 domestic tournament under its control, the ABN Amro Twenty20 cup. It was held over just six days with 11 regional teams, all in Lahore. It was wildly successful, as the final played out to a packed house at Gaddafi Stadium, the first in years for a domestic game. One of the main forces behind that tournament, Salman Sarwar Butt, is also a senior official in the PSL.

September 2007

The PCB announces plans for its own franchise-based league, days after the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Pakistan Premier League (PPL) will be played in September 2008, according to the board, possibly in the UAE. Six franchises are planned with four foreign players, four local players and under-21 players. Board chairman Nasim Ashraf denies the PPL is a response to the unsanctioned Indian Cricket League (ICL) that has drawn away a number of Pakistani players.

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June 2008

The board changes the name of the as yet non-existent league to the Twenty20 Super League and delay the launch to September 2009. Ashraf says two international companies are interested in buying franchises.

August 2008 – 2012

Ashraf’s resignation, heightening security concerns that rule out Pakistan as a venue, and a succession of controversies under the chairmanship of Ijaz Butt over the next few years means the PCB puts plans for a league away.

September 2012

It emerges that the PCB, now under Zaka Ashraf, has revived plans to launch a Twenty20 league and has been working on it for several months. The chairman says the league will be held in March 2013 in Pakistan to aid the bid to bring international cricket back to the country. In November, they enlist the services of former ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat to help them set up the league. The league is now known as the Pakistan Super League.

January 2013

At a launch event for the league’s logo, the PCB announces a 15-day league with five franchise-owned teams and 23 matches. They expect to expand it to eight teams and 59 matches by the fourth season. At the event Lorgat says the value of the league could be “in excess of US$100 million (Dh367.3m)”.

February 2013

The PSL is postponed for a host of logistic reasons, most damagingly that it had not found franchise owners or a broadcaster. The global players’ body, Fica, had also issued a warning to foreign players against travelling to Pakistan for the league for security reasons.

February 2013 – August 2014

A PCB committee continues to work towards finding ways to kick-start the league, possibly in December 2014.

They reach out to potential investors and debate the merits of the kind of ownership model it wants.

But momentum is frittered away through a succession of damaging leadership battles within the board. In August, the board announces a second postponement in 18 months.

June 2015

Under stable leadership, the PCB announces that it will stage the PSL in 2016 in the UAE. In April, the board had engaged Repucom, a leading international sports consultancy, to work out a way forward. They decide that they will organise the league instead of outsourcing it, and that it will be held in the UAE with five teams.

August 2015

After discovering a potential clash of schedules with the Masters Champions League (MCL) and unable to find a compromise with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) the PCB approach Qatar as a venue.

September 2015

The PCB, ECB and MCL work out a compromise that sees the PSL come back to the UAE to play only at Dubai and Sharjah. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard hop aboard and, at a glitzy launch event in Lahore, Kevin Pietersen says he is committed to the event as well.

December 2015

All five franchises – Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta – are sold, a key moment in the fortunes of the league. Combined, and over 10 years, the PCB expects to earn US$93 million from franchise fees. The league also acquires a title sponsor and a broadcast deal. By this time, over 100 players have signed up to take part in a player draft.

December 21-22, 2015

The PSL stages a two-day player draft at the National Cricket Academy at its Gaddafi Stadium HQ in Lahore. A total of 310 players, 138 of them from Pakistan, go in the pool, spread across five categories. The draft continues for 20 rounds, finalising 100 picks. Shahid Afridi is the first player drafted, selected by Peshawar Zalmi. Other big picks include Shane Watson to Islamabad United, Chris Gayle to Lahore Qalandars, Kevin Pietersen to Quetta Gladiators and Mohammad Amir to Karachi Kings.


The PSL finally begins.

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