With the remnants of party poppers in his hair and dangling from his clothes, PSL chairman Najam Sethi reiterated his absolute belief that this year’s final will be held in Lahore.
Sethi mentioned it earlier in the unveiling of this year’s brand new, sparkling trophy set – this time vehemently asserting that 2017 will be the year meaningful international cricket returned to the country’s shores.
However, the question was batted back when flanked foreign captains Brendon McCullum, Darren Sammy and Kumar Sangakkara were asked whether they’d already taken into consideration the trip to Pakistan when they accepted their pay cheques.
Sethi’s intervention stated that he would be meeting with all players and coaching staff on Tuesday to go over the issue with a definitive conclusion in favour of a Lahore final his obvious ambition.
But, with just three days to go until the first game of the second edition of the PSL, the issue was clear.
Why, so close to the start of the tournament, were players not already briefed, their concerns raised and discussed with meaningful conclusion either way?
Chairman PSL makes it clear the trophy will come back to its rightful home! The Home of Pakistani Cricket: PCB Office @ Gaddafi Stadium! pic.twitter.com/X6IwuGRw7O— PakistanSuperLeague (@thePSLt20) February 6, 2017
Were they already sold the idea that Dubai [whose stadium is booked by the PSL for finals day in case it remains in the UAE] was the inevitable host and that any inference otherwise would jeopardise their participation and hence the tournament?
You can be assured that if they were already willing to travel we would have heard about it already.
As it stands, Sethi’s grand, admirable ambition hinges on Tuesday’s meeting. And, with it, the relative success of this sequel event.
The star names have come back in their droves, local talent has been given the opportunity to shine and progress to the national side, the franchises are established and the outreach programmes in Pakistan during this long off-season have been met with undeniable positivity and footfall.
But as we were told last year, this tournament’s main driver is to take cricket back to Pakistan.
It proved too much of an ask in 2016 but the inaugural edition’s success only sparked those hopes further and now we are at a crossroads.
Sethi is adamant that the final will be played in Lahore, his eggs firmly in that basket. Now, he must deliver on that promise.
Security must be guaranteed, not only for the players but media, agents, coaches, the TV companies and the supporters.
If Sethi can do so, with the support of police, the ICC and players’ unions then he will be heralded as the man that brought cricket back to Pakistan and will deserve every ounce of credit.
If not, we are looking at yet another example of governance, in and out of cricket or even sport, unable to deliver on promises founded on igniting nationalism and ultimately unrealistic hope.
It would damage both the PSL and Sethi’s reputation and a call being made so late in the day can be viewed as either wonderfully optimistic or simply impractical, misplaced idealism.
Time will tell whether Sethi is a pioneer or merely a dreamer. For Pakistan cricket and the Pakistan Super League, you pray it is the former.
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