Defending champion Lahore Qalandars will take on hosts Multan Sultans in the inaugural game
ISLAMABAD: The stage is set for the fans’ most cherished cricketing fiesta — the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) Eighth Edition that springs into action at the Multan Stadium today (Monday) at 8 pm.
Defending champion Lahore Qalandars will take on hosts Multan Sultans to set the ball rolling following a curtain-raiser opening ceremony.
The T20 spectacle will continue till March 19 when the two best outfits will be seen playing for the title at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Besides Multan and Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi are the other two cities hosting the 8th edition matches.
The winner of the 19th March final at the Gaddafi Stadium will not only lift the Supernova Trophy but will also collect a cheque of PKR120m, while the runners-up will receive a cheque of PKR48m.
Before the HBL PSL 8 action kicks off at Multan Stadium today, the Pakistan Cricket Board has lined up a glittering opening ceremony. The cricket fans in Multan and all around the world will see spectacular performances by different artists and one of the major attractions would be the performances of the singers of the HBL PSL 8 anthem, Abdullah Siddiqui, Asim Azhar, Faris Shafi and Shae Gill.
The fans will also be treated to performances by the renowned music composer Sahir Ali Bagga and talented singer Aima Baig as the two add to the star-studded line-up, which will make the opening ceremony an unforgettable experience.
Lahore Qalandars captain Shaheen Afridi and Multan Sultan skipper Rizwan are upbeat on making the Eighth Edition a memorable one. “I cannot wait for the HBL PSL to begin. It is a great tournament that throws up some brilliant cricketers each year and we, the international players, get to play some very exciting and competitive cricket. We had an incredible run last year and it is our strong bonding as a family that helped us win the HBL PSL. A lot of effort and hard work went behind the scenes which culminated in us lifting the trophy in 2022. We have worked even harder and we come with much better prepared this season as retaining the title is a tough job, but with the team that I have got, I am confident that the HBL PSL trophy will stay in Lahore,” Shaheen said. Rizwan, who is just back from a successful Bangladesh Premier League outing, said, “The philosophy of Multan Sultans is simple: play as champions irrespective of the opposition or the outcome. Consequently, we are not afraid of the results.
“We have been able to induce this approach on the side because we are a closely-knit side and the credit for this cohesion must be given to the team management. Also, we have a good mix and combination of coaches, which also help me to captain the side.”
Karachi’s National Bank Cricket Arena will play host to the second match of the tournament when the hosts, Karachi Kings, lock horns with Peshawar Zalmi on Wednesday. This match and the tournament opener will begin at 2000 with the toss at 1930.
Quetta Gladiators begin their campaign in Multan on 15th February and Islamabad United play their first match of the season on 16th February in Karachi.
Action will move to the northern half of the country from 26th February with Lahore and Rawalpindi hosting the latter part of the tournament. Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, will host the four playoffs and the final, besides five league stage games and Rawalpindi will stage 11 matches.
The PSL paved way for the successful return of international cricket in the country. The first-ever HBL PSL match in Pakistan – the final of the 2017 edition in Lahore – brought World XI for a three-match T20I series before Sri Lanka played a solitary T20I in Lahore.
The 2018 edition reopened the doors of international cricket for Karachi as the final between Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi, after the two playoffs in Lahore, was followed by the West Indies tour of the city for three T20Is.
The 2019 edition, when Karachi hosted eight matches, further boosted the confidence of international sides, and the 2020 edition, the first time Pakistan hosted the tournament in its entirety, established Pakistan’s credentials as a destination that could host complete international tours.
All six franchises have won the HBL PSL title at least once, which underscores the quality of all six sides and the higher level of competition in the tournament. Islamabad United, the inaugural champions, are the only side to win the HBL PSL title twice (the second time in 2018). “What I am today is solely due to HBL PSL. I entered this competition as an Emerging Category player, but this tournament gave me the opportunity, belief and confidence to grow and develop as a cricketer and I am pleased that I am now a Platinum Category player,” Shadab Khan, who will captain Islamabad United, said.
Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim said, “HBL PSL is one of the best leagues in the world, which is very close to our hearts. We wait for this league for 10 months during which we prepare, plan and set goals. Then, we enter into this great event to achieve our collective objectives, help our sides win and this cycle continues.”
Peshawar Zalmi will be led by the new skipper, Babar Azam who undoubtedly is one of the celebrated white-ball cricketers. Babar said, “Every HBL PSL edition is super exciting for me because of its competitive nature. There is a different challenge each year as the players with whom you share the Pakistan dressing room all year become your opponents.” Experienced Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfraz Ahmad said, “The HBL PSL has played a very important role in the development of cricket in Pakistan. It has provided exposure to our players and they have learned how to handle the camera and crowd pressure, which is very important to grow as an international cricketers.
“We have not been able to perform up to our potential in the last two to three editions, but I am sure that 2023 is the year when we will bounce back and make the fans of Quetta Gladiators proud. We have a solid team that has all the ability to win, and I am excited to be back in the purple and gold and lead this great side,” he added.