The least you can do is watch: why you should care about the Pakistan Super League

Pakistan and PSL superstar Shaheen Shah Afridi

Aatif Nawaz

We often think of cricket fatigue as a phenomena applying only to players. But what about the fans? Surely we should be grateful for the never ending conveyor belt of cricket currently being delivered to us. More so in a pandemic that has left many of us chained to our sofas. But how much cricket can we be expected to reasonably watch? With the right combinations of subscriptions and sleep deprivation, it's often been possible to watch live cricket for 24 hours straight. And it's only February!

So in a world that includes the IPL, CPL, BPL, LPL, Big Bash, Blast, Hundred, T10 and countless others, why would one take out the time to watch what, on the surface, is just another ideologically vacuous T20 tournament – that being the PSL?

Let's look beyond the surface.

Now in its sixth year, the Pakistan Super League has grown at a remarkable speed. Its net worth has been reported to be in excess of $300 million (£215 million). It's not quite the IPL, but still a remarkable feat for a league that has only been staged in its entirety in its home country once before.

The issues that Pakistani cricket has faced for over a decade are well documented. Whether it be internal scandals to international question marks about its security. I's longstanding role as a cricketing and political rival to the mighty India have done it no favours either.

Yet against the odds, this league came to be a saviour of sorts for the Pakistani Cricket Board. A source of hitherto unseen investment in the game. A greater interest from casual fans and commercial entities. Like it or not, the modern game requires a depth of sponsors, endorsements and revenue to entice the most box office of players.

Speaking of which, the league is filled with such players. From household names like Shahid Afridi, Babar Azam and Mohammad Amir, to international stars like Chris Gayle, Faf Du Plessis, Alex Hales and Dale Steyn. The PSL has also been a great forum for new talent with Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan two of the major beneficiaries of its exposure.

And then there are the six teams. Though slightly superficial, the advent of flashy attractive kits and a general razzmatazz about the presentation is always easy on the eye. The franchises have tried hard to give each team a distinguishable identity, not just limited to the geographical location they were arbitrarily assigned.

Detailed statistics have revealed that the standard of play, particularly the bowling, is higher than any other league in the world. There's a lot on the line and the players know it. It's also one of the rare 'open' leagues in the world, with each team having a realistic chance of winning. In its previous five editions only one team has won twice and five of the six have made it to the final. The unpredictability is inarguably exciting.

There will definitely be those who scoff at the above and are repulsed by the notion of yet another T20 tournament. Though between the high standard of play, the top-class production and presentation, the box-office players and the growing prestige of a tournament in one of cricket's criminally neglected regions...you'll wonder why.

If nothing else, watching live cricket take place in Pakistan is still a relative novelty and one would imagine heartening for even the most jaded cricket fan. After all they've been through and all that's built up to this, the least we can do...is watch.

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