DUBAI // The Pakistan Super League (PSL) could stage matches in Pakistan as early as next season.
That is the view of Najam Sethi, the chairman of the PSL, who said the organisers had even been considering the possibility playing some of the opening campaign back in their homeland until very recently.
The new Twenty20 league begins in the UAE tomorrow, with all 24 matches being played in Dubai and Sharjah.
When leading international players were first approached about playing in the competition, they were asked to signal if they would be willing to play in Pakistan. Due to security concerns, few agreed to the idea.
However, Sethi said he had been given assurances that “foolproof security” would be provided were matches to be played in Pakistan.
“We tried this year,” Sethi said, as the teams trained at the ICC Academy yesterday. “We offered more money to foreign players, but the players associations didn’t agree.
“Things are improving in Pakistan. We have a firm grip over terrorism now. The governor and chief minister of Karachi have said we can have a match there any time, and they will guarantee foolproof security.”
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) reached an agreement with the Emirates Cricket Board last year for the competition to be staged here in its entirety.
However, the league’s Karachi-based franchise, the Kings, recently proposed playing a pool match in their home city.
Their enthusiasm for that idea was founded on the success of the launch of the team last month, when more than 30,000 people attended the national stadium.
“The reason we did that event was to prove to PCB and the world that Karachi is a safe place,” said Salman Iqbal, the Karachi owner. “With 33,000 people there, and an immense amount of security, after that I think the president of Pakistan took notice. They had a conversation with a governor of Sind and PCB to see if we could have some of this season’s PSL matches in Pakistan.”
Iqbal suggested the fact the league is being played abroad in the UAE could inhibit its prospects, both financially and as a spectacle.
Sethi predicts the Dubai International Stadium will be “at least 70 per cent full” when Islamabad United play Quetta Gladiators on opening night.
He has also said matches would be guaranteed to be sell-outs were they played back in their home cities. “My sense is that next year we will definitely have a match or two in Pakistan, and a year or two later we will probably move all of it back to Pakistan,” Sethi said.
“If the government of Pakistan say we are ready ... of course we will move it back to Pakistan.
“Hopefully, we can guarantee security and pave the way for international cricket to come back to Pakistan. This will help create an opening for a huge revival for domestic and international cricket, inside and outside Pakistan.”
Shane Watson, the Australia batsman who is playing for Islamabad in the PSL, hopes cricket can return to Pakistan soon.
“I had a really good time in 2005 when we played there on an Australia A tour,” Watson said.
“In the end, security is the most important thing. If places around the world are declared to be very safe, I love playing cricket wherever it is around the world.
“Fingers crossed, for everyone’s sake in Pakistan, not just the cricketers, that security continues to get better there because Pakistan haven’t had the chance to have hometown advantage for a long time now.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport