KARACHI is in line to host the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final next year in what would be the city’s highest-profile game in nearly a decade. PCB chairman Najam Sethi revealed at the league’s draft in Lahore, that they have “made a commitment” to hold it in Karachi. If it does happen, it would be the second year in a row the final of the league is held in Pakistan – the second season final was held at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in March this year.
“We have made a commitment to try our best to have it in Karachi,” Sethi said. If that sounds a little less than a firm commitment, it is mostly because the National Stadium in Karachi, one of Pakistan’s oldest and most established venues, is currently undergoing extensive renovation work that has been direly needed for some time now.
There has been talk that the stadium may not be ready in time, though Sethi felt reasonably confident. “As we speak, the National Logistics Cell (a government body involved in the renovation) is working overtime,” Sethi said. “I talked to the [official] in charge and he has promised me that he will get Karachi stadium ready to host the final in March.”
According to a report in Dawn, the PCB has allocated a budget of PKR 1.5 billion for the work. The roofs of several stands have already been removed and the work is to be completed within a year. The newspaper quoted the project manager NLC engineering, Mohammad Sohaib: “We are determined and eager to complete the task of the first phase within the allocated time.”
The National Stadium hasn’t hosted an international match since the first Test of that ill-fated series against Sri Lanka in February-March 2009. The last time the venue hosted a major international event was the Asia Cup of 2008, when India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan played their games at the stadium – it has hosted more Tests than any other venue in Pakistan and was long seen as a Pakistan fortress.
Though the Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore, Karachi’s reputation for violence and general instability as an unwieldy mega-city, has meant there has been little realistic talk of it hosting a major game until this year. Gaddafi Stadium has hosted all of Pakistan’s major games since the attack, most recently a three-match T20I series against a World XI and a T20 against Sri Lanka.
But the PCB has upped efforts this year to move out of only Lahore as a venue in its efforts to bring more international cricket back to the country. Last month, Reg Dickason, the security expert who advises the ICC and works with FICA and whose firm played a crucial role in the World XI series, visited Karachi and met with senior security and government officials, a preliminary but important step.
Talk this year has been of hosting more than one PSL game in the port city but that, for the moment, seems unlikely. In addition, it is believed the PSL is hoping to stage two playoff games in Lahore as well.
In the last season, though the final went off without major incident, all of Quetta Gladiators’ first-choice foreign players refused to travel, while Peshawar Zalmi’s did – albeit for extra one-off payments. That spoiled the competitiveness of the final somewhat but it did eventually pave the way for the World XI series to take place. Next March, the PCB is also aiming to host West Indies for a three-match T20 series, one which was meant to be held this month.