At first glance, the Pakistan Super League comes off as just another generic, regular, run-off-the-mill sports league where batsmen bat, bowlers bowl and fielders field.
So what’s new here? Superficially … nothing. Even it’s name isn’t unique as at least three other sports leagues have called themselves PSL, with the most prominent of them probably being South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
And while the P in this particular PSL represents Pakistan, a majority of its matches take place in the UAE. The matches too are some of the least attended events in all of sports, which gives the fans across the border a lot of fodder to make memes and crack some undeniably funny jokes.
Having posited all there is that seems ugly, ladies and gentlemen, PSL boasts a trio of things that no other league in the world has — that’s including the Indian Premier League.
Let’s examine what these features are that make the PSL stand out from the crowd.
1. The league where batsmen don’t reign supreme
It’s no secret that the entire purpose of creating the T20 format is to favour the batsmen so they amass runs and fast. Where there was logic behind it, the bias has become so obvious and grave that T20 leagues around the world have quite clearly become cemeteries for bowlers.
Understandably, leading the pack in this crusade is the IPL where batsmen often treat ball hurlers with disdain of the highest order. This is where the PSL is still holding the fort.
Empty they may be, but PSL stadia are one of the few ones where there is still some semblance of balance between bowlers and batsmen. The latter do not, or cannot, bully the former in PSL every single time. For instance, take the IPL 2018 where the batting team plundered the bowling side for 200-plus runs 15 times.
Similarly, in 120 innings of IPL 2018, teams were all-out only a dozen times. In contrast, in 66 innings of PSL 2018, bowlers managed to dismiss all 10 opposing batsmen a total of 10 times. Some could say that that’s a failure on PSL batsmen’s part, but on the flip side, you can also argue that it’s down to PSL bowlers’ brilliance.
2- PSL represents a nation’s perseverance
The influx of food vloggers and the likes of Cynthia D Ritchies are hard at work but to the outside world, Pakistan still remains a massively mysterious and grossly misunderstood place. For them, the only things found in Pakistan are bombs, terrorists, acres and acres of barren land, unforgiving mountains and deserts as far as the eye could see.
It goes without saying that that is a ridiculous perception; Pakistan is not Syria or Iraq where active wars are being fought. Post 9/11, however, Pakistan has had to fight a passive war, and it has cost us upwards of 50,000 lives. It takes decades for war-torn, cash-strapped nations to emerge from such historic setbacks.
And yet here is Pakistan which is semi-hosting a league with international players less than five years removed from a situation where multiple bombings a day had become a norm. The players we attract may be second-stringers or has-beens or even railo kattas but just to be in this position takes a tremendous amount of perseverance. No mainstream sports league has had to battle such external elements.
3- Not just another sports league
And now the last but the heaviest point on the list. The IPL, the CPL, even the EPL or any PL, as successful as they are, they are all just sports leagues. The PSL, for Pakistan, is not just another sports league. It’s much more than that.
The claim can be justified by the fact that when PSL runs into problems, the directions and leadership can even come from the top-most echelon of the hierarchy: the PM House. To handle security, even the top brass of the army gets involved — that’s how important this seemingly insignificant 20-over competition is to this country.
On the day of the final, the host city is shut down almost completely, which of course is out of necessity than anything else, but what other sports competition can have that effect?
From a news standpoint even, on the day of PSL final, the PSL final is all that matters. No politicians climb up their containers, no courts binge on suo motus and no clerics issue edicts. The PSL final blows its local newsmakers out of water, which is something far bigger competitions cannot manage.
Bottom line being that critics can call PSL flawed and miniature but this competition’s uniqueness lies in its own modest roots. The oft-repeated slogan match PSL ka, jeet Pakistan ki may sound a bit annoying but truth is that it is indeed true. PSL does not have to be a packed tourney flashing gaudy grandeur.
The fact that it exists despite Pakistan’s plethora of problems and despite being frozen out by cricketing powers that be, is an achievement in itself.