Pakistan to host T20 Super League final at home amid improved security

ICC official Giles Clarke is impressed by the country’s efforts to ensure Lahore will be safe to stage a cricket match

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 11:07pm

Pakistan will host the final of its domestic Twenty20 tournament on home soil in March, the country’s cricket board (PCB) said on Monday, a big lift for a nation which has largely been shunned by international teams since 2009 because of security risks.

Last year, the inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL), based on the franchise model of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League, became a success though all the matches were played in the United Arab Emirates.

The PCB said at the time that the real test would be to bring the game back home.

In 2009, gunmen attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team from their hotel to Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium for a test match, injuring six players and killing six security personnel and two civilians.

The incident forced Pakistan to play their home matches in the UAE and the country has since remained starved of international cricket at home, apart from Zimbabwe’s limited-overs tour in 2015.

“We will host the final in Lahore on March 7,” the PCB’s executive committee chairman Najam Sethi said. “We are going full steam ahead, and have all the green signals.”

Last week, Giles Clarke, the head of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Pakistan Task Force, arrived in the country on a two-day fact-finding mission on security.

“We’ve been able to see very significant work that has been invested in, and invested very wisely in how safety and security will be made possible for visiting international cricket teams,” Clarke said.

“There’s a considerable amount of perception that needs to be changed and information that needs to be shared. But I am most impressed by the efforts of the authorities to make Lahore a safe city.”

A senior PCB official said the PSL final would be hosted in Lahore “for sure, but only if there is no big security related incident from now to February 9”, when the league kicks off in the UAE.

Last year, the PCB sold five franchises for US$93 million and attracted players from 11 different countries, including big names such as West Indies batsman Chris Gayle and former captains Kumar Sangakkara, of Sri Lanka – who will be playing in March’s Hong Kong T20 Blitz, and England’s Kevin Pietersen.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who will lead Islamabad United, is also playing in the Hong Kong tournament.

National television viewing figures were higher than for the 2015 World Cup, with 55 per cent of Pakistan’s TV-watching public tuning into the tournament at peak times.