Pakistan’s biggest city is set to witness some of the biggest stars in international cricket over the next nine days as the last leg of Pakistan Super League begins on Saturday.
Shane Watson of Australia, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy of the West Indies will be the star attractions in the Twenty20 format for cricket-frenzied fans in Karachi.
Watson will be playing in Pakistan 14 years after being a member of the Australia A team in 2005, while Pollard will be playing in Pakistan for the first time.
Sammy has been an unofficial ambassador of the PSL around the world since the league began in 2016. Sammy, who leads Peshawar Zalmi, won the second edition of the PSL at Lahore in 2017 as the PCB gradually started organizing more and more league games at home.
“It’s been 14 years since I last visited Pakistan, a place with some of the most passionate fans in world cricket. Can’t wait to give it our best shot in winning the trophy,” Watson said in a video message tweeted by his team Quetta Gladiators.
Lahore, which organized the PSL final two years ago, was ruled out to host three of the remaining eight PSL matches after the recent political tensions between Pakistan and India forced a delay in opening of the international air space in Lahore.
This led the Pakistan Cricket Board to contemplate rescheduling the remaining eight games in Pakistan after organizing 26 PSL league matches in the United Arab Emirates.
But then Karachi, which also hosted the last year’s PSL final, was chosen as the PCB was adamant to show the cricketing world that it’s safe to again host international teams in Pakistan.
“The perception that foreigners have about the safety situation in Pakistan will change and they will be satisfied with the security arrangements,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said in Karachi.
“I am delighted to welcome the foreign players who have come here for the PSL and I am sure it will help us in bringing more international matches to the country.”
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Mani had said that Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were the two teams which could tour Pakistan later this year if the PCB successfully organizes PSL games in Pakistan.
It’s been 10 years since Pakistan hosted a fully-fledged bilateral cricketing series when terrorists attacked on Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore in 2009.
Several key cricketing delegates from around the world that include top officials from the ICC, Federation of International Cricketers Association and Bangladesh Cricket Board will also oversee security arrangements during the matches in Karachi.
Tight security will be provided for the six franchise teams, including more than 13,000 policemen and 2,500 armed paramilitary personnel in place en route from hotel to the stadium and in the surroundings of the National Stadium.
Hundreds of CCTV cameras have been installed in and around the National Stadium to monitor the movement of spectators. Spectators have to show their original National Identity Cards along with their tickets at the entry points.
Defending champions Islamabad United will take on Lahore Qalandars at 7 p.m. local time (1400 GMT).
The main roads of the metropolis city have been decorated with lights and cardboard cut-outs of players on the roadside. There are also giant billboards showing several foreign players representing the six teams — Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Islamabad United, Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators and Multan Sultans.