LAHORE: Eight games in the fourth season of the PSL will be held in Pakistan as the PCB released the schedule for the T20 tournament, which will begin on February 14 in Dubai. The final has been given to Karachi for the second year running and it will take place on March 17.
The PSL has played a significant role in the return of top-level cricket to Pakistan, alongside sporadic visits from international teams since a short tour in 2015 by Zimbabwe, who became the first side to tour the country since the attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009. The first PSL game in Pakistan was 2017 final in Lahore. Three matches of the 2018 season were held in Pakistan – the two Eliminators in Lahore and the final in Karachi.
The new chairman of the PCB, Ehsan Mani, met all six PSL franchises for the first time on Saturday for a governing council meeting to discuss the upcoming season. Additionally, the board will invite fresh bids for the tournament sponsor and broadcast rights; the previous set was valid only for three seasons.
In a significant development, the PSL franchises will have representatives on the various committees inspecting all the bids that come in. This was not the case when the PCB was led by Najam Sethi and it created tension between the former chairman and the Multan Sultan franchise, who wanted to be part of the process.
“PCB’s aim is to ensure transparency and working in partnership with all franchises in order to make PSL a bigger success,” Mani said. “PCB and all PSL franchises are partners in this project and I am confident that we will all work together to bring in good numbers for our next rights cycle. The inclusion of franchises in the decision-making process highlights the need to ensure the collective growth of all partners.”
Ahead of the PSL draft, all teams can retain a maximum of 10 players, but only two of those can be overseas picks from the platinum category. The exact ratio of local to foreign players in a squad is yet to be finalised.
The retention window is expected to close in the second week of October, after which each of the released players goes into the draft. Each squad will need to have at least 16 players but can grow up to 20, with these four places reserved for young and emerging talent. Lahore Qalandars will get first pick in the draft since they were the team that finished last in PSL 2018. However, it has been decided that, from the fifth edition of the PSL onwards, the first pick at the draft will be decided at random.
Lahore, by the way, are the only one of the six franchises to have submitted a bank guarantee to the PCB. The others are yet to do so despite the board extending the deadline by two weeks.
There was the likelihood that PSL matches might be held in as many as four cities in Pakistan, but considering the extensive security arrangements that will be needed, the PCB decided to keep it to Lahore and Karachi. Besides, the other stadiums are not quite ready to host matches, most needing extensive renovations and some like Faisalabad and Rawalpindi are considered too small to host the large crowds. Multan was understood to be a potential host, but logistics proved a problem. There was also talk of taking the cricket to Muzaffarabad stadium in Kashmir, but the PSL governing council ruled that out since the players would have to be taken to and from the ground in helicopters.