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Preview: what to expect from PSL 2019?
PSL 2019

Preview: what to expect from PSL 2019?

The season of cricket festivity is back. The fourth edition of Pakistan Super League is set to begin today with a scintillating opening ceremony followed by a clash between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars.

Marcia Barrett of Boney M, Fawad Khan, Aima Baig, Shuja Haider are the star singers who will attract the attention of the crowd in the opening ceremony in Dubai International Stadium.

The Swarovski-produced PSL 2019 trophy, which is made of 50,000 crystals and visualizes Pakistani flag, was unveiled on Tuesday by the six PSL captains - Mohammad Sami (United), Imad Wasim (Karachi Kings), Daren Sammy (Peshawar Zalmi), Sarfaraz Ahmed (Quetta Gladiators), Shoaib Malik (Multan Sultans), Mohammad Hafeez (Qalandars).

 Andre Fletcher, Darren Sammy and Hasan Ali ahead of 2018 PSL Final ©PSL/PCB

Andre Fletcher, Darren Sammy and Hasan Ali ahead of 2018 PSL Final ©PSL/PCB

United, the most successful team of the PSL with two silverwares and a win percentage of 59.67, will be defending the title against Qalandars, who have brought in five new overseas players – AB de Villiers, Carlos Brathwaite, Corey Anderson, Sandeep Lamichhane and Brendan Taylor, to improve their poor record in the tournament. Qalandars ended at the bottom in the points table in each of the last three seasons.

Predictions: who will win PSL 2019?

De Villiers, a legendary batsman from South Africa, is the biggest draw of this season and will be looking to add a few more performances to his illustrious career. The 34-year-old veteran has scored 7,178 runs at a strike-rate of nearly 150 and also tonked 360 sixes in the game’s shortest format.

The two fastest centurions of ODI cricket – De Villiers and Anderson – might be batting together for Qalandars whereas the World T20 2016 hero Brathwaite, also with Qalandars, will be keen to display his power-hitting for the first time in PSL.

Pakistan’s premier T20 tournament has been a great platform for both local and overseas budding cricketers to exhibit their talents and establish their careers. As has been the case in the previous seasons, the fourth PSL is once again an opportunity for players to prove their worth.

Read: Foreign debutants to watch out for in PSL 2019

 Sarfraz Ahmed and Darren Sammy lead their sides out at Gaddafi Stadium ©PCB/PSL

Sarfraz Ahmed and Darren Sammy lead their sides out at Gaddafi Stadium ©PCB/PSL

22 new foreign players have signed for PSL 2019 and knowing that the league has already seen 77 overseas players the figure might touch 100 this season.

Among new faces, Philip Salt (United), Sandeep Lamichhane (Qalandars), Liam Livingstone (Kings), Aaron Summers (Kings) and Laurie Evans (Sultans) are the names worth remembering.

PSL has played a massive role in Pakistan’s marked improvement performance in limited overs cricket. Pakistan is number one team in the ICC T20 Rankings for more than a year now and that is largely down to the fact that numerous cricketers, such as Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi etc, came into the national side after convincing selectors in the PSL.

Read: Emerging players to watch out for in PSL 2019

Some of the aforementioned players also played a tournament-winning role in the 2017 Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom and with the 2019 World Cup just four months away this year’s PSL might once again throw some bolters.

The likes of Rizwan Hussain, Mohammad Musa (United), Umer Khan (Kings), Nabi Gul (Zalmi), Saud Shakeel (Gladiators), Mohammad Ilyas (Sultans) and Haris Rauf (Qalandars) et al have the potential to play for the national team and are looking at the PSL 2019 as a launching pad.

“My goal is to play for Pakistan in all three formats and I want to have a long international career,” said Saud Shakeel.

“I also want to play a winning role for Quetta Gladiators in the coming PSL, which is a fantastic tournament for the youngsters. It is an opportunity for the players to show their skills and cement a place in the national team.”

Read: Key players to watch out for in PSL 2019

 Islamabad United celebrate their second PSL title ©PSL/PCB

Islamabad United celebrate their second PSL title ©PSL/PCB

The popularity of the league is rising in Pakistan as well as in other parts of the world. The broadcasting rights for the next three editions have been sold for 358 per cent more than the price of the previous deal while the franchise Multan Sultans was resold for more than twice the amount of the most expensive team in 2015.

The tournament will be televised live in the Indian subcontinent, US, Europe and Canada and streamed live in rest of the world.

The PSL has covered a long distance since its inception in 2015. The first edition of the tournament in 2016 was played at only two venues – Dubai and Sharjah. This time it will be staged at five venues with Abu Dhabi getting the hosting rights for the first time.

Eight out of 34 matches will be played in Pakistan. Lahore will host three games while Karachi will stage five games at the newly renovated National Stadium, including the final on March 17.

The cricket feverishness is set to spread across all cities of Pakistan in the coming days. For the next one month, cricket will be the talk of the town in every corner of the country.