On March 20, the Pakistan Super League will move from the UAE to Lahore, which will host the two Eliminator matches, and then to Karachi for the final on March 25. This will be the highest-profile match in Pakistan's most populous city in nearly a decade. Which overseas players, however, will make it to Pakistan for these marquee clashes?
The independent security consultant Reg Dickason has briefed the overseas players from the four teams that have made the playoffs - Islamabad United, Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators - about security arrangements in the two Pakistani cities. Now it is up to the players themselves. Some have confirmed they will travel, some that they will not, while others remain undecided.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Quetta will once again suffer an exodus, as a majority of their overseas players have either said no or remain undecided about making the trip. Their marquee player Kevin Pietersen has already made it clear that his tournament is over.
"It's with a heavy heart that I have to leave Dubai and go back to London," he said in a video message. "I wish i could travel and unfortunately family is very important and it's a family decision and I hope you can respect it. But we have an opportunity to win this tournament, we are still in the competition, and please support the purple team. I will keep on supporting and am totally on top of everything we do over the next couple of days."
Quetta were badly hit last year as well, having to make do with a last-minute draft of foreign players, and went on to lose the final to a full-strength Peshawar. Their coach Moin Khan isn't pleased with the situation.
"I blame the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for this sad situation," Moin said on Saturday. "I know the board will not like my comments. However, in future, only those overseas players should be included in the player draft who commit to also play in Pakistan, if required by their franchises."
Overseas players who refuse to play in Pakistan, Moin said, cannot be seen as supportive of Pakistan cricket. "The franchises pay them well to play in the PSL. However, when they refuse to travel to Pakistan, it upsets the balance of the concerned franchises, and also deprives our people of seeing competitive cricket."
The table toppers after the group stages have a fair bit of uncertainty surrounding who will travel. JP Duminy was originally denied an NOC by his home board but the batsman has decided to make a trip at his own risk by signing an indemnity form with CSA.
Luke Ronchi and Samit Patel are ready to travel while Sam Billings, who was recently appointed Kent captain, and Alex Hales are undecided and are likely to pull out.
AFTER a 30-match preliminary-round backbreaking schedule, the HBL Pakistan Super League’s third edition is now at the business end of the competition as Islamabad United and Karachi Kings prepare to battle it out in the qualifier at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium here on Sunday night.
The reward for the winners will, of course, be the ticket straight into the final at Karachi’s National Stadium next week, while losers stand to get another opportunity to qualify for the title-decider on March 25 when they face either Peshawar Zalmi or Quetta Gladiators — the two last year’s finalists who face each in the first eliminator in Lahore on Tuesday — at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.
Karachi left it until the last league fixture on Friday night to book their playoff berth by ending Islamabad’s sequence of six consecutive victories. But they are aware of the glaring factor that was missing at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium when Islamabad rested the first-choice trio of Luke Ronchi, Mohammad Sami and Samit Patel.
Karachi head coach Mickey Arthur, who is presently also in-charge of Pakistan’s national team, while looking forward to Sunday’s big game warned his charges of what to expect when the above-mentioned players rejoin their side.
“I think it would be a cracking game to be honest. And Friday’s match has really given our team the self-belief and motivation to beat Islamabad. But I also told my players it would be a tough battle out there tomorrow [Sunday] simply because Islamabad will field their full-strength squad,” Arthur told reporters on Saturday.
“In hindsight, people may think we have the momentum but when are in a contest such as the qualifier, the level of intensity is extremely high and the atmosphere electrifying. It’s like a mind-game where one has to be carefully at every move being made.
“However, we’ve got to be realistic because Ronchi will be back and so are Patel and Sami. So make no mistake, they [Islamabad] will be different kettle of fish.
“The execution of [game] plans has got to be spot on and that’s my philosophy of getting the lads to operate in this mode. We always had good games against these [Islamabad] guys. We beat them [Islamabad] twice last year, first in the last league game and I think it was a kind of déjà vu, although for both these teams, it was qualifying for third and fourth places.
“I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow because our foremost goal is to beat Islamabad and head straight to Karachi for the final. Imagine, the scenes that would be unfolding when Karachi play the final in front of wonderful home supporters. To be honest, there’s added pressure on us because they are already selling memorabilia in Karachi!”
Arthur also revealed that Karachi captain Imad Wasim won’t be taking part in Sunday’s fixture as the Pakistan limited-overs all-rounder is still not fully fit after hurting his back during the league-round tie against Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah last Sunday.
“Imad is making good progress but he’ll not be playing tomorrow. But we are hoping he is available again for the next match we play.”
All the foreign players in Karachi Kings side — Joe Denly, Ravi Bopara Tymal Mills (England), Colin Ingram and Davud Wiese (South Africa) and Lendl Simmons (West Indies) are ready to travel to Pakistan for the PSL matches.
However, England’s T20 captain Eoin Morgan, who is currently leading Karachi Kings in PSL in place of injured Imad in the UAE, is not going to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Islamabad head coach Dean Jones insisted that the players in his side have gelled well and will be playing hard cricket come Sunday.
“I have really impressed with the way our players have prepared and gone about their work ethnic in terms of improving their overall game. I’m particularly pleased the the way younger players like Hussain Talat, Fahim Ashraf and Asif Ali have developed in this tournament and learned their roles to play with freedom and what sort of belief we have in them,” the ex-Australian cricketer said.
“Hussain is a terrific player, Asif has something about him and people often ask me why we retained him and now you know why. Amad Butt is another guy who is coming along well and Fahim is taking on the responsibilities we gave him.
“I think we doing pretty okay to get into this game and the culture within the squad has been terrific with everyone enjoying each other’s company and success. That’s the hallmark of a good team. I have to say we have had more practices than anyone and we had more full net sessions than any other franchises. Tactically and strategically our support staff has been working out the opposition and we’ve been unbelievingly well prepared. In a nutshell, we have left no stone unturned when we go into our matches,” Jones revealed.
However, Jones refused to indicate whether the overseas players in the squad would be travelling to Pakistan. “I think you’ll have to wait to find out who is going and who is not until we get into Pakistan.”
Although there have been no official confirmation yet from other franchises of the playoffs (Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi), Islamabad United players Luke Ronchi of New Zealand and England’s Samit Patel have both indicated earlier they will play PSL games in Pakistan.
CRICKET COMES TO LAHORE: Gladiators’ team players partially arrived in Lahore that included all the local players, while the international players will land in Pakistan on March 19.
LAHORE: Pakistan Super League (PSL) gears up for the last three matches in the country of its origin as Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiator’s local players arrived in Lahore for the first eliminator to be played on March 20 at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Peshawar and Quetta finished third and fourth respectively on the points table with the same points —10 apiece — but different run-rates to set an eliminator date.
Gladiators’ team players partially arrived in Lahore that included all the local players, while the international players will land in Pakistan on March 19.
They will miss the services of recently retired Kevin Pietersen, former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson and England opener Jason Roy as the trio refused to travel to Pakistan citing security as a serious concern.
Thus, Quetta had to sign three players and they chose to pick Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perera, who was initially picked by Multan Sultans, but he did not play any match for the debutantes and hence was available for transfer.
The other two players selected by Quetta include top-order Yorkshire batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore and West Indies left-hand opener Johnson Charles. They will be traveling to Lahore for the first eliminator with Chris Green, Julien Fountain and Mahamudullah, while Gadiators’ mentor Sir Viv Richards will also be arriving in Lahore on March 19.
“The local players have arrived in Lahore and will be doing a practice session before the game, while all international players will be arriving on Monday, a day before the match, and will have some participate in net practice with the team before the eliminator,” Gladiators’ media manager Nabeel Hashmi told The Express Tribune.
Commenting on the signing of Perera he said: “We talked to the PSL player management to sign Perera as he didn’t play a single game for Multan Sultans. However, Sultans do have the first right to retain him next year, but since he didn’t play at all so we asked for him and the move was allowed.”
He also informed that team owner Nadeem Omar and team management are in talks with South African Rilee Rossouw but things are not final yet.
“We want him to travel with the team. He hasn’t taken a final decision yet, but we are hopeful he will say yes,” Hashmi added.
Meanwhile, defending champions Peshawar Zalmi’s complete squad is travelling to Pakistan.
Zalmi squad arrived in Lahore on Sunday morning and the team management announced that all their international players are traveling to Pakistan and will be playing in the first eliminator on Tuesday.
“All International players are coming to Lahore along with the captain on Monday and will be doing a practice session in the evening,” Zalmi team manager Abdul Rehman told The Express Tribune.
He added: “All the local players have arrived and the team is optimistic to win the match as the complete squad is arriving. This has given the team much-needed confidence and we will be able to form the same type of combination in the match as we did in Dubai and Sharjah to find a spot in the second eliminator. We are confident to defend the title,” he added.
A brutal display of power hitting by Islamabad United opener Luke Ronchi helped his side defeat Karachi Kings by eight wickets at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday and qualify for the Pakistan Super League 2018 final.
The kiwi batsman scored the fastest half-century of PSL on his way to an unbeaten 39-ball 94 to move his team to within one victory of their second title triumph in three years.
Both the sides were without their regular captains, with Islamabad's Misbahul Haq nursing a hand injury and Karachi's Imad Wasim recuperating from concussion.
After the Kings won the toss and opted to bat first, United's Samit Patel and Mohammad Sami — both of who were rested for their defeat at the hands of Karachi in the final league match of PSL 2018 — returned to share the new ball.
Their impact was instant as the start to Karachi's innings was rocky. Sami, in particular, was excellent early on, removing both Khurram Manzoor and Babar Azam in the fourth over.
His catch of Manzoor off his own bowling was a superb effort and a testament of the 37-year-old pacer's fitness.
Islamabad United 155 for 2 (Ronchi 94*, Farhan 29) beat Karachi Kings154 for 4 (Ingram 68*, Denly 51, Sami 2-20) by eight wickets
. Where they stand
Islamabad's comprehensive victory takes them through to Sunday's final. For Karachi to get to their home ground for the grand finale, they will have to beat the winner of Peshawar and Quetta in the eliminator.