LAHORE: The most-anticipated tournament in the domestic calendar is upon us as the eighth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will kick off on February 13 (tomorrow).
The tournament will begin with Multan Sultans, the winners of the 2021 edition and the finalists of the last, in action with the title defenders and hosts Lahore Qalandars at the Multan Cricket Stadium.
Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi will also host the matches of the eighth edition of the PSL, which promises to be as exciting as the last seven.
Karachi’s National Bank Cricket Arena will play host to the second match of the tournament when the hosts, Karachi Kings, lock horns with Peshawar Zalmi. This match and the tournament opener will begin at 8pm with the toss at 7:30pm.
Quetta Gladiators will begin their campaign in Multan on February 15 and Islamabad United will play their first match of the season on February 16 in Karachi.
Action will move to the northern half of the country from February 26 with Lahore and Rawalpindi hosting the latter part of the tournament. Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, will host the four playoffs and the final, besides five league stage games and Rawalpindi will stage 11 matches.
The winner of the March 19 final at the Gaddafi Stadium will not only lift the Supernova Trophy but will also collect a cheque of Rs120 million, while the runners-up will receive a cheque of Rs48 million.
A look at winners
All six franchises have won the PSL title at least once, which underscores the quality of all six sides and the higher level of competition in the tournament.
Islamabad United, the inaugural champions, are the only side to win the PSL title twice (the second time in 2018). Peshawar Zalmi won the 2017 edition. Quetta Gladiators, who were the finalists in the first two editions, won the 2019 competition. Karachi Kings were the first side to lift the trophy at their home when they rolled over Lahore Qalandars in Karachi in 2020. Multan Sultans bagged their maiden title in 2021. Last year, Qalandars lifted the trophy in Lahore.
Before the PSL 8 action kicks off, the Pakistan Cricket Board, in a continuation of its tradition, has lined up a glittering opening ceremony.
The cricket fans in Multan and all around the world will see spectacular performances by different artists and one of the major attractions would be the performances of the singers of the PSL 8 anthem — Abdullah Siddiqui, Asim Azhar, Faris Shafi and Shae Gill.
The fans will also be treated to performances by the renowned music composer Sahir Ali Bagga and talented singer Aima Baig as the two add to the star-studded line-up, which will make the opening ceremony an unforgettable experience.
Captains gear up for tournament
Shadab Khan, captain of Islamabad United, ahead of the tournament recalled how the tournament gave him an opportunity, belief and confidence to grow and develop as a cricketer.
“The quality and standard of bowling is far superior than any other league. And it is not me who is saying this, but it is shared publically by the top players who have played in PSL. Personally, it gives me a lot of happiness when world’s best cricketers praise our league and its standard.”
“PSL is one of the best leagues in the world, which is very close to our hearts. We wait for this league for 10 months during which we prepare, plan and set goals. Then, we enter into this great event to achieve our collective objectives, help our sides win and this cycle continues,” said Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim.
“Last year, Karachi Kings were hampered with injuries, but for 2023, we have all bases covered with high-quality players who all are match-winners. The most important thing for us is to play T20 the way it should be played, which is with a positive attitude and aggressive intent.”
Meanwhile, Lahore Qalandars captain Shaheen Afridi said that he can’t wait for the PSL 8 to begin.
“We had an incredible run last year and it is our strong bonding as a family that helped us win the PSL. A lot of effort and hard work went behind the scenes that culminated in us lifting the trophy in 2022. We have worked even more hard and we come with much better preparation in this season as retaining the title is a tough job, but with the team that I have got, I am confident that the PSL trophy will stay in Lahore.”
Mohammad Rizwan, who is Multan Sultans captain, said that his team philosophy is to play as champions irrespective of the opposition or the outcome.
“We have been able to induce this approach in the side because we are a closely-knit side and the credit for this cohesion must be given to the team management. Also, we have a good mix and combination of coaches, which also helps me to captain the side.”
Peshawar Zalmi’s new captain Babar Azam said that every PSL edition is exciting for him because of its competitive nature. “There is a different challenge each year as the players with whom you share the Pakistan dressing room all year become your opponents.”
He added that he is looking forward to making a good start in this journey.
Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfaraz Ahmed said: “We have not been able to perform up to our potential in the last two to three editions, but I am sure that 2023 is the year when we will bounce back and make the fans of Quetta Gladiators proud. We have a solid team which has all the ability to win, and I am excited to be back in the purple and gold and lead this great side.”