Pakistan Super League (or PSL for short) is Pakistan’s premiere T20 competition and is currently in its 3rd season. Due to the unstable security situation in Pakistan, all 3 seasons of the tournament have been played in Pakistan cricket’s home away from home, the UAE. The matches during the league alternate between Dubai and Sharjah for the duration of the league. The final last year was held in Lahore and the PCB has organised to hold 2 play-off matches for the current season in Lahore with the final being held in Karachi on 25 March 2018.
The league has seen some great cricket action in its short life to date, however, the striking feature of the event has been the regular sight of empty stadiums while the matches are being played. This sight has not gone unnoticed and recently cricket fans from India started trolling PSL and Pakistan cricket fans for the lack of attendance at such high-profile cricket games.
UAE has a large cricket loving expat population from South Asia and you can often see them come out to watch the matches on the weekends, however, the matches during the weekdays largely remain unnoticed. Nonetheless, despite the large expat population in the UAE, the league was never likely to attract large crowds in the location. One reason for this is that most of the expats are busy with their work duties and other everyday chores during the week leaving them little time to watch a full cricket match at the stadium. The other reason being that the expat population from Pakistan generally forms a small percentage of the cricket lovers in UAE with people from India forming the major part of the expat population. Again, it is unlikely that they would turn up to watch PSL matches when they have little interest in the teams and the event.
The question, though, remains whether the empty stadiums are a sign of the league’s popularity back home in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the matches cannot be held in Pakistan due to the prevailing security situation, however, online stats show that the PSL has a massive fan following in its country of origin and also among overseas Pakistanis. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are flooded with posts and videos from the PSL on a daily basis which, to me, shows that people have genuine interest in the event.
The league is broadcast live on a number of channels across the world and also online on www.cricketgateway.com (see full list of broadcasters below). The matches are watched by a large audience both at home and abroad and you can often see people talking about the games in their free time.
Pakistan Super League’s official Facebook Page has over 3.7 million likes and the official Twitter page has been followed by 829k fans at the time of writing this article. These are by no means small numbers and show the popularity of the tournament. Both these pages post regular updates about the matches along with pre and post match analysis on all games. The engagement from fans on these updates are also very heartening with regular banter between fans of various teams. Hashtags of all games are also regularly trending on Twitter during the course of the tournament showing the interest among the fans.
The Pakistan Super League also has an official Youtube channel which has almost 500k subscribers. The videos posted on the channel are widely shared on social media and the more popular videos have views in the hundreds of thousands.
One of Pakistan’s most popular Youtubers, Irfan Junejo, is also part of Islamabad United’s media team and regularly posts Vlogs of his experience at the 2018 PSL. Again, these videos garner views in the multiple of thousands and if you haven’t already checked Irfan out then please do so because his Vlogs are quite awesome (irrespective of the PSL link!).
The PSL has already produced a number of stars for Pakistan cricket since it started in 2016. Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf are already doing wonders for the national cricket team which shows that the PSL is fulfilling its prime responsibility of honing the skills of young Pakistani cricketers. The team’s triumph at the 2017 Champions Trophy bears witness to the improvement in Pakistan cricket’s fortunes as a result of the PSL.
The above stats and numbers show only a glimpse of the PSL’s popularity for Pakistan’s cricket fans. Pakistan is a nation obsessed with cricket and Pakistanis have wanted a T20 league of their own ever since the IPL started over a decade ago. Most Pakistani cricket fans are proud of the PSL and what it has done for the cricket scene in the country.
PCB’s plan since the inception of the PSL in 2016 was always to bring the tournament home to Pakistan. They took the first steps to this goal by hosting the final in Lahore last year and will take a few more steps in that direction by hosting 3 matches in Pakistan for 2018. The attendance at these matches will be the real test of PSL’s popularity because after all it is the ‘Pakistan’ Super League and it will be truly super when it is fully held in its own home!
Also, here’s a video of last year’s sold out final in Lahore… Enjoy!