Discarded, retired foreign players unlikely to add flavour to PSL final – Pakistan

KARACHI: It appears that the PCB think-tank, in their over eagerness to hold the 2017 HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Lahore, has overlooked several key factors which require immediate ‘damage control measures’ to avoid embarrassment at the business end of the franchise-based T20 league.

According to a latest development, it seems that the Quetta Gladiators will field a depleted playing XI in the Sunday’s final after it emerged on Wednesday that the English trio of Kevin Pietersen, Tymal Mills and Luke Wright have opted out of visiting Lahore for the big game.

By the time the last of the three playoffs conclude in Dubai on Friday night, more pullouts are imminent.

Pietersen has been one of the star performers in guiding Quetta to the title-decider, while Mills – a left-arm speedster — claimed seven wickets.

Wright, a regular in the playing XI last year but featuring in just one game — the nail-biting win over Peshawar on Tuesday — tweeted: It’s with a heavy heart I will not be coming to Lahore. I have a young family and for me a game of cricket is just not worth the risk. I’m sorry as I know how much it means to you all and hopefully in the future the safety will not be in doubt to come and play there.”

Another overseas player in Quetta squad is spinner Nathan McCullum. The older brother of retired New Zealand captain Brendon, who led Lahore Qalandars in this PSL, has also decided against going to Lahore.

The PSL organizers have got contingency plans ready. Firstly, the franchise owners have all agreed to participate in Lahore, should their teams qualify.

Secondly, they will go all out to bring foreign players — regardless of their status, potential or current form — to Lahore at any price just for one match by holding another players draft after Friday’s match.

The franchises have already been provided the list of foreigners with the choices reportedly expanding from 54 to 60. The two finalists will then bid for the players to replace those pulling out.

Again in their anxiety to give the final the ‘international’ flavour, the PSL organizers — who are still in the process of recovering from the pull-out of the official broadcasters, have coaxed a Dubai-based company named Innovative Production Group to handle production of the Lahore fixture and are willing to dish extra dollars to anyone who is willing to travel for the final.

But one glance at the list of second-choice players will definitely raise eyebrows since it includes a mixture of discards, mainly from the West Indies, English county players and a host of retired cricketers. In a nutshell, the quality of the final is being compromised by the overzealous organizers in calling up the forgotten lot.

Just imagine this: who has ever heard of Steven Taylor? A namesake of an English professional footballer, the Taylor in question is a 23-year-old left-hand batsman from the United States of America. Another virtually unknown commodity is Akeal Hosein, a little-known all-rounder from Trinidad.

Further down the list are long-discarded Pakistan seamer Yasir Arafat and ex-England batsman Owais Shah, who was born in Karachi, as well as Ashar Zaidi and Azharullah, the two county regulars who were born and brought up in Pakistan and have played domestic cricket here.

Darren Stevens, a 40-year-old county batsman, is also in line to play in the Lahore final if Quetta or any other team opts to bid for a vastly experienced foreigner.

But the PSL organizers still have something to cheer at since Sri Lanka’s Ranmore Martinesz, who is on the ICC panel of international umpires and currently standing in the PSL fixtures, has reportedly given his consent to officiate in the final.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2017

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