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HBL-Pakistan Super League: Top SA players likely to feature as preparations for Karachi leg finalised

HBL-Pakistan Super League: Top SA players likely to feature as preparations for Karachi leg finalised

KARACHI: The cancellation of South Africa’s Mzansi Super League could well end up to be a blessing in disguise for the upcoming edition of the HBL-Pakistan Super League.

With Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ramiz Raja finalising preparations for the Karachi leg of the PSL on Tuesday, it emerged that top South African players including the likes of batter David Miller and pacer Kagiso Rabada are expected to make themselves available for the glitzy T20 league.

Well-placed sources told Dawn that the PCB was in talks with Cricket South Africa and was exploring ways how it could be made possible.

But with the player draft for the month-long seventh edition of the PSL — which begins in Karachi on Jan 27 — already been held, participation of South African players will only go ahead if at least six players make themselves available, thereby allowing each PSL franchise to pick one player.

“It is subject to the timing of the players’ confirmation if the picks will be made during the supplementary draft scheduled for January 7 and 8,” the sources said. “A separate draft might be arranged just for the South African players.”

South Africa are currently playing India in the second of the three-match Test series at home. The two teams will play as many One-day Internationals from January 19 to 23.

The Mzansi Super League was scheduled to be held in February, clashing with the PSL, but was cancelled with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus causing havoc in South Africa.

The surging Covid-19 cases in Pakistan have meant the PCB has created a pool of local players who went unpicked in the player draft last month.

The list of players for this pool will be finalised after the supplementary draft, in which the PSL franchises are expected to use their remaining funds to pick players in each of the Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver, Emerging and Supplementary categories.

Sources said that the pool of players will stay in the same bio-secure hotel where all six PSL teams will be accommodated, allowing for quick replacements in case a selected player tests positive for Covid-19 during the event which concludes with the final in Lahore.

Last year’s PSL was postponed and shifted to the United Arab Emirates after a number of positive cases emerged in the bio-secure bubble while the tournament was being played in Karachi.

With the PCB following guidelines from the National Command Operation Centre regarding the Covid-19 situation while organising the PSL, the spectre of rising cases in Pakistan affecting the tournament didn’t come up for discussion as PCB chief Ramiz met with senior police officials, district administrators, Sindh government officials and security officials on Tuesday.

“The meeting was aimed at discussing all possible means and measures to ensure a smooth entry to the National Stadium for cricket fans while providing then world-class facilities including the provisions of a fan park,” the PCB said in a news release, stating that it was a part of their initiatives for “fan engagement and ease of security clearance and operations for the spectators”.

TAHIR SIDDIQI ADDS: Ramiz earlier met with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the CM House where they discussed the possibility of organising PSL matches at Hyderabad’s Niaz Stadium in the future.

The chief minister said that there were some repairs required at the Niaz Stadium while the players could stay at the best resthouses or universities while matches were being played in Hyderabad or could travel from Karachi by air.

“Whatever would be feasible would be carried out but it has been decided that Hyderabad being hub of the rural Sindh would be given national and international matches soon,” Murad said.

Also during the meeting, various PCB initiatives for talent-hunt and grooming in Sindh, renovation of cricket grounds and the development of high performance centres were discussed at length.

Murad added that there was a lot of talent in Sindh but the PCB would have to hunt it down. Ramiz assured the chief minister that he would launch under-18 teams while promoting domestic cricket so that teams from rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan could come forward.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

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