The Pakistan Super League final takes place this weekend in Lahore. It’s one of the biggest games the country has hosted for years.
Quetta Gladiators, one of the five franchises that make up the Pakistan Super League, have qualified for the final. They will play the winner of Friday’s play-off, Peshawar Zalmi.
Islamabad United, which won the first PSL last year, has dropped out of the race, as have the Lahore Qalandars.
Are foreign players taking part?
All five foreign players on the Quetta Gladiators team have pulled out. These include the English trio Kevin Pieterson, Luke Wright and Tymal Mills, South Africa’s Rilee Rossouw and New Zealand’s Nathan McCullum. More players are likely to drop out after Friday’s qualifier.
The Peshawar Zalmi franchise owner has said five foreign players from his team will go to Pakistan for the final.
According to reports, the five are West Indies captain Darren Sammy, England’s Dawid Malan, Samit Patel, and Chris Jordan, and Jamaica’s Marlon Samuels.
The PSL management has drawn up a list of willing international players for both teams to choose from. An extra premium of more than $10,000 is reportedly being offered to these players for playing in Pakistan.
But critics say the names on the list are mostly of “discarded, retired or unheard of” players whose influence in bringing international cricket to Pakistan is likely to be negligible.
Where is the final taking place?
It will be played in Lahore, where the PSL is headquartered. The security clearance for the match was given by the government on Tuesday.
The match will be the first involving international players on Pakistani soil in several years.
International teams stopped touring Pakistan after an attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
An exception was the Zimbabwe team’s tour of 2015, which too was marred with a suicide bombing outside the gate of the venue of the second ODI in which some people were killed.
In the meantime, Pakistan has been playing all of its home international cricket in the United Arab Emirates, including the PSL which was established in 2015 and played its first season last year.
The PCB decided to establish PSL not only for commercial reasons, but also to provide local cricketers with a platform to re-link with international cricket.
This year’s PSL has also been played in UAE, but PCB decided to hold the final in Lahore as a step in its efforts to bring international cricket back to Pakistani soil.
What’s the scale of the security operation for the final?
Thousands of security troops have been deployed around the Gaddafi Stadium, and many more in the surrounding areas of the city in a five-tier security plan, officials said.
They said searches/scanning of the stadium and its surroundings will be conducted on a daily basis until after the match is over.
The Gaddafi Stadium and its sports complex have been closed for all public activity, including shops and restaurants in the surrounding area.
Parking area for cars has been designated 4km away from the stadium and officials say buses will be provided to shuttle visitors from the parking zone to the stadium.
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Meanwhile, all hospitals in Lahore have been put on high-alert. In addition, two makeshift hospitals have been ordered to be set up – a five-bed hospital at the hotel where the teams will be staying, and a 20-bed hospital at the city’s main Hockey Ground, some distance from Gaddafi Stadium.
These extraordinary measures have been taken in view of a series of recent attacks in Lahore and elsewhere in which scores of people have been killed.
The attacks were claimed by militant groups such as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the Pakistan Taliban and so-called Islamic State, They took place amid reports of a growing co-ordination among the various groups.
How popular is the PSL?
Cricket is Pakistan’s most popular sport – but during the last seven years, fans have been starved of excitement due to the absence of international events at home.
This was apparent this week when tickets for the PSL final were sold out within hours of opening online and at bank counters.
Long queues at the banks in Lahore, Karachi and elsewhere this morning led PSL officials to announce they were cutting down the allocation to the corporate sector in order to provide more tickets for ordinary fans.
This rush has come despite the diminishing prospects of international players showing up on the scene, and a threat of militant attacks, which was voiced by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan recently when he said the decision to host the match in Lahore was “madness”.