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Pakistan sees PSL as a platform to bid for ICC event

February 19, 2020 GMT
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Pakistan's former squash world champion Jahangir Khan unveils the PSL trophy at the National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan with Chief of Pakistan Cricket Board Ehsan Mani, right, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Pakistan's premier domestic Twenty20 cricket league begins from Thursday with the final scheduled to be played at Lahore on March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
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Pakistan's former squash world champion Jahangir Khan unveils the PSL trophy at the National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan with Chief of Pakistan Cricket Board Ehsan Mani, right, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Pakistan's premier domestic Twenty20 cricket league begins from Thursday with the final scheduled to be played at Lahore on March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The return of premier domestic Twenty20 cricket in Pakistan is a step toward bidding for a major ICC event, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board said Wednesday.

Ehsan Mani said the PCB is making preparations to bid for a top cricket event in the cycle of 2023-31.

“We want to show to the ICC and to other countries that we are capable of hosting an ICC event and we will aggressively bid for that,” Mani said.

Pakistan has in the past hosted at least three major cricketing tournaments, including matches during the 1987 and 1996 World Cups and the 2008 Asia Cup.

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“But this (PSL) is the largest cricketing event hosted by us,” Mani said.

Title defenders Quetta Gladiators will take on two-time champion Islamabad United in the opening match of the Pakistan Super League on Thursday as the league returns home in its entirety after four years. Peshawar Zalmi, Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans are the other franchises competing in the tournament.

Four major cities — Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi — will host all 34 matches over a period of 32 days. Lahore will host 14 matches, including the two playoffs and the final at Gaddafi Stadium on March 22.

Nine matches will be organized in Karachi, including a playoff, while Rawalpindi and Multan will host eight and three matches, respectively.

A two-hour opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Karachi is planned before before Quetta, led by former Pakistan Twenty20 captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, takes on Islamabad in the first match at 1600 GMT.

“There will be a pressure of being title defenders, but we will try to play some good cricket in front of big crowds,” Sarfaraz said.

With the return of PSL in its entirety, the PCB sees it as a final step to win back the confidence of foreign teams that it’s safe to resume playing cricket in Pakistan.

Pakistan went into isolation in 2009 when terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore, leaving eight people dead and several players injured.

The fragile security situation in Pakistan forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to launch the PSL in 2016 in the United Arab Emirates because foreign cricketers were not comfortable playing in Pakistan.

But gradually after hosting the final of the second edition of the PSL in Lahore in 2017, the PCB has managed to host test matches after a 10-year gap. Sri Lanka played two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi last December while Bangladesh also played a test match in Rawalpindi last month.

As many as 36 international players, including Darren Sammy of the West Indies, will be representing six franchises.

“The amount of interest (in the PSL) has been incredible around the world,” Mani said. “Over 450 foreign players registered to be considered for the event and in the end 36 have been chosen by six franchises. This reflects the confidence of foreign players to come and play in Pakistan.”

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