World cricket stars are expected to head to Doha next year to compete in the first edition of the Pakistan Twenty20 cricket Super League, after Qatar agreed to host the tournament, Pakistan’s Cricket Board has announced.
The franchised tournament will be played in February 2016 at the Asian Town (previously known as West End Park) international cricket stadium in the Industrial Area, which is likely to have to undergo modifications to make it suitable.
From Feb. 4-24, five teams will play 24 matches, competing for up to $1 million in prize money, the PCB said.
Najam Sethi, chairman of the PCB’s executive committee, announced the deal in a press conference in Lahore yesterday.
The PCB has for some years been trying to set up a T20 league, but the launch has been postponed twice due to sponsorship and other issues.
The league was originally going to be hosted by the UAE, which is where Pakistan has played all of its international matches since a terrorist attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
However, when the PCB attempted to confirm venues with the Emirates Cricket Board earlier this summer, they discovered that the stadiums had already been booked for the February slot for the Masters Champions League, a tournament for retired cricketers, ESPN cricinfo reports.
Rather than again delaying the launch of the league until April, when players may not be available, Sethi said Doha was chosen to host the tournament.
“The wait is now over and we are here to tell you of our intent to stage the PSL. The way we see it, PSL is not just about cricket. It is a unique blend of entertainment and cricket which will be the most exciting Pakistani product,” Sethi said.
What is Twenty20?
T20 cricket is a short form of the game, where two teams have a single innings each up to a maximum of 20 overs.
With the average match lasting up to three hours rather than over several days as in Test cricket, it is a faster-paced game which has been developed to help attract more spectators to grounds and to boost TV viewing figures.
In addition to international tournaments, a number of countries have national T20 leagues.
Pakistan previously had the Haier T20 league, involving 18 franchised member clubs.
It will be replaced with the Super League, which will be created by city-based franchises and is expected to include teams from Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad and Karachi.
It is likely Pakistan hopes it can eventually build a league to rival the Indian Premier League, the world’s most watched T20 league with an estimated brand value of $7.2 billion.
Explaining how the new Pakistan league will work, Sethi said:
“We are starting with 5 teams in order to build the value of our franchises and we will expand the number of teams in the coming editions.”
While the signing of the players has yet to be confirmed, cricketers from across the world are expected to feature in the tournament lineup, alongside those from Pakistan.
Top foreign players from all Test-playing nations except India have expressed interest in taking part in the PSL, with initial consent shown from more than 40 international players, Sethi added.
Four West Indians and two players each from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa are among the names the PCB would like to lure. Around 25 are expected to sign up to the league, 15 of whom will be “world class players” Gulf Times reports Sethi as saying.
Talks are already underway with potential sponsors and franchise owners and broadcasters have shown “great interest” in the tournament, the PCB official added.
The formal launch of the PSL is expected to take place in Lahore late next month, and rights for broadcast, sponsorship and franchise ownership will be sold over the coming three months.
Qatar Cricket Association has welcomed the deal. “We are yet to finalize the details about the agreement to host the tournament and we hope this will be done soon,” QCA official Gul Khan told Gulf Times.
With Qatar home to hundreds of thousands of people from cricket-loving nations such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, the tournament is expected to draw decent crowds from home in addition to fans traveling from elsewhere in the region to watch the matches.
However, unlike other T20 tournaments which are played around a number of venues and cities, Qatar only has one stadium and all the matches will be played there.
The Asian Town ground, which was opened in 2013 and has a capacity of around 13,000, last summer hosted two smaller T20 tournaments for Qatar-based clubs.
Previously, Asian Cricket Council official Bandula Warnapura reportedly described the stadium as “one of the best I have seen in this region” and said it was a contender to hold international matches.
Will you go to the matches? Thoughts?