SHARJAH: Owners of the five Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises have agreed that their teams will travel to Lahore should they qualify for the final, which is scheduled to be played on March 5. The decision came after a meeting on Monday in which the PSL management briefed the franchises on security arrangements for the final, due to be played at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Though the PSL has maintained from before the start of this season that the final would be held in Lahore, that status has been shaken up by a series of bombings in Pakistan over the last week. Most pertinent for the venue was a bombing on a major thoroughfare in Lahore last week, near the Punjab assembly, which claimed the lives of 13 people. But the entire length and breadth of the country has been rocked by a wave of bombings in the last week, including one at a shrine in Sindh which killed 72 people.
But support and assurances from the federal government, from the Punjab government and perhaps most importantly from the army, has meant that the PSL has felt confident enough to pursue Lahore; a statement from the army shortly after the Lahore blast said that the “Army will extend full support to all concerned for holding the event as scheduled.”
“It has been heartwarming to see the dedication of all the owners to the cause of taking cricket back home,” PSL chairman, Najam Sethi said in a statement. “There is a realisation that this final will be the first step in opening the gates to international teams starting to make the journey again. We are all committed to this mission and wish to have a thoroughly entertaining final where it should happen – in Lahore.”
During the meeting on Monday, the owners of the Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars franchises raised concerns about the security of players and the general public if the match were to be played in Lahore, concerns that were eventually assuaged by Sethi.
“We are positive about the PSL final but we will have to convince our players,” Salman Iqbal, the owner of the Karachi franchise, told ESPNcricinfo. “But in principle we are looking forward to playing the final in Lahore in case our team qualifies for it. It’s premature to say right now which team is going to play the final but we have given our consent. After all only eight [foreign] players need to make a trip and it’s not impossible to convince them and I am sure all will be good.”
“We are actually concerned about the general public’s safety, otherwise we are convinced that our players will be taken care and they will have the top security,” Sameen Rana, CEO of Lahore Qalandars, told ESPNcricinfo. “But they [the public] are also our stakeholders and it’s for the crowd that we are making it, so what about their safety? We were given a line by Najam Sethi that he has all the assurances from the government and forces to make it possible, and every single person is important and will be taken care of. So we trust them and agreed to play the final in Lahore.”
The PCB has taken numerous steps in its planning for the final. The board has bought four bulletproof buses for the transport of players, and has previously spoken about planning it such that players fly in and then out immediately either side of the match.
The question around the participation of foreign players in the final remains unanswered. Even before this latest wave of attacks, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) issued a report warning that an “acceptable level of participant security and safety cannot be expected or guaranteed” in Pakistan. After the Lahore blast, Sethi briefed foreign players in Dubai but admitted that he was unsure how many would agree to traveling.
It is believed that foreign players will be offered separate payments to travel for the final itself, based on a slab system reflecting their status and seniority. The maximum such payment could go as high as $50,000.
Franchises have, however, been handed a list of 54 foreign players who, the PCB says, are willing to travel to Lahore for the final. The list comprises players who were left unpicked at the draft, as well as others from outside the pool who have been contacted by the PCB about their availability. They include players from Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, England, South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh. Agencies