The fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League is all set to entertain its fans once again from February 14. Defending champions Islamabad United will start their title defence against the under-performing Lahore Qalandars in Dubai on March 1.
PSL’s flair comes as much from local stars and emerging cricketers as it does from foreign stars that have participated in the tournament in the past. Seventy-seven foreign players have participated in the PSL over the course of the previous three editions.
West Indian cricketer and Peshawar Zalmi captain Daren Sammy has been the most popular foreign star to feature in the past three editions of the tournament. He has formed a special bond with his team and his fans in Pakistan and the people have treated him with equal affection.
“I have a very special relationship with Pakistan and every time I interact with Pakistani fans or play in front of them, it just fills my heart with so much joy,” Sammy said.
“When we all took that first step with the PSL 2017 final in Lahore, we knew we were doing something much more important than just playing a game of cricket. From that point onward, we have seen the slow but very steady return of high-profile cricket to Pakistan,” he said. He was one of the first foreign starts to agree to play in Pakistan and convinced other foreign players in the Zalmi team to visit Pakistan. That alone secured a place for Sammy in the hearts of millions of Pakistani cricket fans.
“Seeing young kids in Pakistan enjoying the game at the stadium, hopefully learning a thing or two from some of us cricketers, and then going on to be a part of the next generation of cricketers, that is just a beautiful feeling to have,” said Sammy. “I am just very glad that I was able to play a small but meaningful role in this entire process.”
Luke Ronchi is another foreign star that left a lasting impression on the league and that too in his inaugural PSL appearance. The retired New Zealand batsman, who also keeps wickets for Islamabad United, was the top scorer of the third edition with 435 runs at a phenomenal strike-rate of 182.
“There was a lot of excitement all around when we landed in Karachi for the PSL final last year. The energy in the city was amazing and it felt like we were part of a big festival,” he said.
“Winning the PSL trophy for Islamabad United in Karachi is a memory that I will cherish for a long time. The game got pretty close for our liking in the end but it was nice to see the fans getting to watch some exciting cricket,” said Ronchi.
England all-rounder Ravi Bopara was the talking point of the first edition of PSL when he signed for the Karachi Kings. And he didn’t disappoint. With 329 runs and 11 wickets in the first edition, including a 71-run knock followed by six wickets against the Lahore Qalandars, Bopara proved to be the backbone of the Karachi outfit.
“The energy in Lahore last year was amazing. I cannot forget how the fans welcomed us with open arms and all of them — young and old — had incredible passion for the game.
“I remember it rained a lot before our game against Zalmi and the organisers brought in helicopters to get the field ready. That is how much it meant to them,” says Bopara.
Liam Dawson, another English all-rounder, has also been integral to his team’s success. His performances in the bowling department spearheaded Peshawar Zalmi to Karachi for the final last year.
“I had the pleasant experience of playing three games in Pakistan last year and I have to say that the crowds in Pakistan are just on another level. They obviously want more cricket back home so each game was a special experience for us as players,” said Dawson.
“I remember having the option of heading back to Dubai after the playoff in Lahore and then flying back to Karachi for the final but once I got there and saw the way everything was organised, it just felt very safe and I stayed on. I am glad that I made that choice.”