PSL: A pathway to revive international cricket in Pakistan

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In this March 25, 2018 file photo, West Indies cricketers Darren Sammy, right, Andre Fletcher, second left, and Pakistani cricketer Hassan Ali, center, dance during a music show prior to start of the Pakistan Super League final cricket match at National stadium, in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP)
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In this February 10, 2019 photo, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani listens to a question during an interview with the Associated Press in Lahore, Pakistan. Mani said fully-fledged cricket could be revived in Pakistan later 2019 with teams from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka touring Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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PSL: A pathway to revive international cricket in Pakistan

  • We want all PSL matches coming back to Pakistan: PCB Chairman
  • PCB failed to convince Cricket Australia to play at least two one-day internationals in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Super League is not like any other Twenty20 cricket competition. It can’t compete financially with the lucrative Indian Premier League in terms of player payments, yet it’s a dream for some cricketers just to be playing in it.
For the Pakistan Cricket Board, it’s considered a pathway to resuming fully-fledged international cricket on home soil.
It has been nearly a decade since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore in 2009 resulted in the suspension of international cricket in Pakistan, forcing the national team to play its ‘home’ games in the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan cricket organizers also had no other option when launching their flagship T20 tournament in 2016 but to organize the entire first edition in the UAE.
But that started a step-by-step process to bring international cricket back to Pakistan, a country of more than 200 million and where cricket is the major sport. The 2017 PSL final was staged in Lahore, demonstrating that local security agencies could safeguard foreign players.
Last year, Lahore hosted two PSL playoff games before the final was held in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
The 2019 edition, which starts in the UAE on Thursday, will feature eight games in either Lahore or Karachi involving all six franchises later in the tournament.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani wants even more in 2020, telling The Associated Press, “I’d I like to see majority of the matches next year to be held in Pakistan.”
Lahore and Karachi have been focal points of the push for more cricket on home soil, hosting Twenty20 games against a World XI, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. But progress is being held back by the lack of improvements to stadiums in cities such as Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad.
“We have certain limiting factors,” Mani said. “We need the other stadiums if we’re going to bring all the matches back to Pakistan.”
Mani took Pakistan cricket’s top job soon after cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who is also the PCB patron, was sworn in as prime minister last year. Mani is now looking to Khan’s government for funding to “help us bring these stadiums up to scratch.”
Mani said the league was watched by more than 100 million people last year and its sponsorship and broadcast rights deals continued to grow rapidly despite Pakistan’s economic situation.
“PSL is unique,” he said. “It’s an enormous market, and the best endorsement that PSL had is our commercial partners.”
West Indies star Darren Sammy, who plays for Peshawar Zalmi, has become a household name in Pakistan after winning the 2017 final at Lahore and reaching the final in Karachi last year.
This year, South Africa’s A.B. de Villiers will be representing Lahore Qalandars and has already promised to showcase his batting prowess at Qaddafi Stadium next month.
“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of goodwill now for Pakistan around the world,” Mani said. “There’s also no doubt that as more and more players come and play in the PSL, the level of confidence in the ability of Pakistan ... to organize matches in a secure and safe environment has increased.”
Mani is hopeful that another incident-free PSL will encourage Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to return to Pakistan for full international series later in the year.
“We’ll be engaging with them earlier rather than later to make sure that they have the comfort and security that they require to be able to come and play in Pakistan,” he said.
Mani couldn’t convince Cricket Australia to play at least two one-day internationals in Pakistan next month, with a five-match series instead going ahead in the UAE, but he said the Australians were committed to sending their security experts to the PSL to assess the situation.
“The perceptions of Pakistan will change,” Mani said, “We’ve got no doubt about it.”
An International Cricket Council taskforce was behind the World XI’s tour in 2017 which included South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and current Australia test captain Tim Paine, but the sport’s world governing body can’t insist on foreign teams returning to Pakistan.
“There’s no doubt that ICC is comfortable to let its match officials come to Pakistan, to let its umpires and referees and others come here,” Mani said. “That’s a big endorsement on how Pakistan is going.”
Wasim Khan, the PCB’s new managing director, believes it won’t be long before Pakistan is hosting test matches again.
“Pakistan is now ready ... it’s starved of international cricket,” Khan said. “We need the youngsters to see our heroes playing here, not in the UAE or other part of the world.”
Others, such as former Pakistan captain and now television analyst Ramiz Raja, suggest the PSL could create a feel-good factor among foreign players.
“The PSL is a great vehicle to further the case and is creating positive vibes about the country,” Raja told The AP. “The foreign players have not only acted as ambassadors but are successfully pleading Pakistan’s case to the world.”
Respected cricket analyst Abdul Majid Bhatti said about 40 foreign players will be competing in PSL, and at least 30 are committed to traveling to Pakistan for the latter stages.
But Bhatti, who works for leading Urdu language newspaper Daily Jang and at Geo TV, said the status quo wouldn’t change until the major cricket countries such as India, England, South Africa and Australia starting touring Pakistan.
“Unless foreign teams play test matches in Pakistan, revival of international cricket looks difficult,” he said, “but it’s not impossible.”
Fans in Pakistan see the PSL as an ideal platform for bigger things.
Foreigners “think Pakistan is a terrorist country, this is not like that,” Karachi-based Tayyaba Aleem said. “There was lot of security here before and it’s even beefed up more. So those who do not come, they should come.”


VAR denies Manchester City again in latest wild Premier League match with Tottenham

Updated 17 August 2019
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VAR denies Manchester City again in latest wild Premier League match with Tottenham

  • Gabriel Jesus thought he scored the winner in the second minute of injury time
  • VAR — new to the league this season — ruled the ball reached Jesus off the arm of Aymeric Laporte

LONDON: Four months later, Manchester City was denied another crucial late goal against Tottenham by an intervention from the video assistant referee.
Gabriel Jesus thought he scored the winner in the second minute of injury time in a wild English Premier League match at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when he curled home a finish after the ball landed at his feet following a corner. The Brazil striker waved and danced in front of City’s jubilant fans, unaware the on-field referee had been told the goal was under review.
VAR — new to the league this season — ruled the ball reached Jesus off the arm of Aymeric Laporte as the City defender stretched to head it. Newly implemented rules say a foul should be awarded if a goal is scored from an accidental handball.
The goal was disallowed, much to the anger of Jesus and City’s frustrated fans, and the match finished 2-2. The final whistle was greeted with loud boos inside the stadium as the English champions dropped points in the second match of their title defense.
Back in April, almost the exact same thing happened to City when Spurs visited for a Champions League match. On that occasion, Raheem Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside by VAR in the third minute of injury time, denying City a place in the semifinals.
City manager Pep Guardiola didn’t drop to his knees and look as crestfallen like he did in April. Instead he engaged in conversation with Tottenham counterpart Mauricio Pochettino in the technical area as confusion reigned around him.
“I thought we left that situation against Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same,” Guardiola said. “The referee and VAR disallow it. It’s the second time, it’s tough. It’s honestly tough.”
Guardiola will wonder how his team didn’t win.
Twice taking the lead in the first half, through Sterling and then Sergio Aguero, City was twice pegged back by Tottenham, first by Erik Lamela and then by Lucas Moura 14 seconds after he entered the field as a substitute.
The diminutive Brazil winger ran straight toward the penalty area to line up for his team’s corner and rose highest — somewhat improbably — to send a glancing header looping into the net in the 56th.
Aguero was substituted soon after that goal and exchanged some strong words on the sideline with Guardiola as he sat down. The pair was seen embracing near the end of the match, however, suggesting they patched up their differences.
The result leaves City two points behind Liverpool, the team expected again to be its biggest rival for the title.
Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 earlier.
ADRIAN’S CRAZY WEEK
In the space of nine days, Spanish goalkeeper Adrian has made his Liverpool debut as an injury substitute, saved the decisive penalty to win the club the UEFA Super Cup, got injured by a pitch-invading fan, and made an embarrassing error in a Premier League game.
To say it has been a roller-coaster start to life at Anfield would be an understatement.
Adrian, an offseason signing filling in for the injured Alisson Becker, was a doubt for Liverpool’s match at Southampton after a fan slid into the goalkeeper’s ankle while the team celebrated his crucial penalty stop in a shootout win over Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday. He was declared fit on the morning of the match and made some good saves before Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino put Liverpool 2-0 up at St. Mary’s.
Adrian ensured there was a nervy finish when he kicked a clearance straight at Southampton striker Danny Ings and saw the ball rebound into the net in the 83rd.
Liverpool hung on, though, for a second straight win after beating Norwich.
PUKKI PEAKING
Teemu Pukki scored a division-high 29 goals to proper Norwich to the second-tier League Championship title last season.
He cannot stop scoring in the Premier League, either.
After his consolation goal at Anfield on the opening weekend, the Finland striker added another three in dismantling sorry Newcastle as top-flight soccer returned to Carrow Road.
“The guys are creating chances — I could have scored more,” Pukki said.
Newcastle has lost both of its opening games under new manager Steve Bruce.
AUBAMEYANG AGAIN
Another striker to have started the season strongly is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has grabbed winning goals in each of Arsenal’s first two games.
A week after scoring the only goal at Newcastle, Aubameyang led Arsenal to a 2-1 win over Burnley with a shot inside the near post from the edge of the area. He was tied as the top scorer last season with Liverpool attackers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The standout player for Arsenal, though, was Dani Ceballos, who is on a season-long loan from Real Madrid. He set up both goals — the first was scored by Alexandre Lacazette — and showed the touch and vision Arsenal has been missing since the departure of another Spanish playmaker, Santi Cazorla.
WINS FOR EVERTON, BOURNEMOUTH
Everton and Bournemouth got their first wins after opening the season with draws.
Brazilian winger Bernard scored in the first half to secure a 1-0 victory for Everton against Watford, while Bournemouth built on a second-minute penalty from Josh King and beat Aston Villa 2-1.
Jack Grealish, the Villa captain, has lost a record 20 straight Premier League games, stretching back to when the team was last in the top flight in 2015-16.
Brighton and West Ham drew 1-1 in the other match.