Much will be on the line in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Unlike the last season, the players will step forward to salvage their pride and live up to the rivalries forged in the last season.
The five franchises, based on four provincial capitals and the federal capital, will be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and must have sorted the latter out after having ample drafts — an annual PSL draft in October and the replacement draft in January.
The overseas players will be the centre of attention and their presence will make the opposing teams indulge in planning to surmount any possible threat posed by them.
Amongst all the glamour and drama will be opportunities for the unknowns — the local boys who go unnoticed on the daily basis due to the lack of media coverage of the domestic fixtures — to leave a mark on probably the greatest stage they had ever gotten or will ever get in this lifetime.
There was one such a kid who grasped the opportunity thrown at his way on the very first day of the inaugural edition last year. Those prolific ides of February turned around his career altogether.
It was the last ball of the eighth over as a left-arm orthodox charged to bowl to legendary Australian all-rounder Shane Watson. The young bowler has had his success in the over, in fact on the very recent ball, when he made Watson play-and-miss. The over timeline read 0, 1, 0, 2, 0 by the time he made his way past the umpire to complete his first over in front of a bustling crowd.
He struck! The established Twenty20 batsman was made to seem like a complete fool when he stepped outside the leg stump to pull a shorter delivery only to be bowled.
What was a regular battle of bat and ball for the entire world had a much deeper context for the audience viewing the contest hundreds of miles away in Pakistan. Once a far-fetched idea of having a lucrative franchise-based T20 league — similar to your neighbour’s — has materialising and just a few overs into it, it has yielded results. An obscure spin-bowler had undone one of the best in the format.
Mohammad Nawaz, the discovered gem, came onto bowl his second over six balls later and he bagged wicket of another international player, but this time from England. Trying to reverse-sweep, Sam Billings lost his middle-stump to then 21-year-old. The Rawalpindi-born registered two more scalps in his next two overs and returned the figures of 4 for 13 to earn the man-of-the-match award.
Twenty-five days later, Nawaz found himself in the Pakistan line-up playing an Asia Cup T20 match against the United Arab Emirates as the dream — of representing your nation —dreamt by umpteen cricket aspirants every night was realised.
He was drafted for the ICC World T20 squad and boarded a plane to India. Six months later, he made his first One-Day International (ODI) appearance, and two months after he donned the prestigious baggy green for the first time in his life in a Test against the West Indies.
There were other inspiring tales too. For example, of the teenager Mohammad Asghar, another left-arm orthodox, who picked up 11 wickets in nine matches at an average of 18 and found himself on the verge of Test selection on Pakistan’s recent trip Down Under or Hasan Ali or Ruman Raees.
The second edition of the PSL promise to bring forward more talent and leave us in awe. Few have already been identified; the Quetta Gladiators’ spinner Hasan Khan; Lahore Qalandars’ 17-year-old pace sensation Ghulam Mudassar and his teammate Fakhar Zaman. With the 26-year-old Zaman in contention to be the find of the season, this league may solve Pakistan’s batting woes. Who knows?
When the concept of the PSL was being brewed in the corridors of the Pakistan Cricket Board two years back, the basic premise behind such a league was to unearth the local talent, and of course to earn revenue to make up for the absence of international cricket in the country, which, certainly, is not a bad proposition if the underlying concept is being fulfilled.