There is going to be a different style of cricket on display in Pakistan during the upcoming season
The fifth season of Habib Bank Limited (HBL) Pakistan Super League (PSL) will be held in its entirety in Pakistan. It's a momentous occasion for all those involved in ensuring that the event returns home and along with it bring international cricket back home as well.
But the change in host country is not the only change which will be happening as PSL5 kicks off. There is going to be a different style of cricket on display in Pakistan. In the few PSL games played in Pakistan, the changes were evident, the games had more boundaries, there were flatter wickets on which batsmen thrived, the bowlers had seen their role in the game differ from the role they had in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
PSL for the first four seasons was known to be as a primarily bowling league, which is not surprising given the amount of games which were low scoring. The PSL, which is among the top five T20 Leagues in the world alongside Indian Premier League (IPL), Big Bash League (BBL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and Natwest T20 Blast, has the lowest scoring rate. It's a unique league in comparison to others, with the other leagues having their games being dictated by batsmen, the bowlers still rule the roost in PSL.
In simple terms, the PSL played in UAE was more bowling friendly, even more so than the T20 games played within Pakistan. It's not like the batsmen did not have any role to play, they did but their role was limited with a group of bowlers able to make more of an impact than a solitary batsmen. The pitches in UAE for the most part were slow pitches which did not have much in it for the batsmen and helped the bowlers thrive with their simple game plan. In other leagues, the batsmen were the attackers, but in the PSL the bowlers had more of role to dictate games, which is what made the league different from the others.
Pakistan when it comes to T20 cricket is a different venue than UAE which is evident from the fact that since 2016 the average score in the UAE is 142.3 for the loss of 6.81 wickets, while in Pakistan the average score is 150.3 for the loss of 6.44 wickets. Both of the scores are below the global average (151.6) in the top 10 playing nations but venues in UAE tend to result in more wickets being lost than the global average of 6.62 wickets.
But with the PSL going to Pakistan, there is going to be a seismic shift in how the league will be played. In the small sample size of 12 PSL games played in Pakistan, the average score has been 165.1 runs for the loss of 7.23 wickets in an innings. This is an increase of 20 runs from the same league which was played in UAE where the average score was 145.6 runs for the loss of 6.55 wickets.
It's a small sample size, but it does give a lot of information as to where the league could be heading once it returns to Pakistan. In UAE, scores of 180 or more were achieved every 9.4 innings, in Pakistan a score of 180 or more was achieved every 3.4 innings which is 6 innings quicker than the league did in UAE. Three out of five of the highest scores in the PSL were made in Pakistan in just 12 games. Yes, the league will not be played entirely in Karachi which is the ground where the runs were scored at the quickest rate. But the league will definitely be heading towards that direction.
So given that we know how the league has been played in UAE and Pakistan, what do we expect from the PSL games to be played in Pakistan on the basis of the sample size of those 12 games played there?
Batsmen in the UAE have scored 4.2 runs per over, which translates to 84 runs over the span of an innings; in Pakistan a batsman scores 5.4 runs per over in boundaries which translates to 108 runs over an innings. Straight up there are 24 more runs scored in an innings just through boundaries. The other mode of scoring which is running between the wickets, however, takes a dip. In the UAE the number is 3.08 and in Pakistan it is 2.84, but the overall difference is just 4.8 runs scored fewer running between the wickets in Pakistan than in UAE. But the overall impact made by those scoring boundaries, just cancels out the difference in the runs lost running between the wickets.
The roles of bowlers will be different as well. In UAE the bowlers had the attacking role, they were the ones who would set the tone of the game but in Pakistan they will have more of a role of the defender, where they will have to control the flow of the runs by either defensive bowling or picking wickets. So don't be surprised, if the bowlers who thrived in UAE struggle a bit in Pakistan. They will still be good bowlers but it’s just that they will be more expensive or concede more than they did in UAE.
Along with the different brand of cricket on offer in Pakistan, this edition will definitely see more fans flocking to the stadiums. UAE was a good host, yes not many fans showed up to the games, but the work timings in UAE and the lack of transport did play a role in low fan turnout at the grounds along with many other factors. But that was always going to be an issue given how it was the PAKISTAN Super League being played in UAE. With the league back in Pakistan, the fans will now be able to experience the league in it's entirety with home and away games for 4 of the 6 franchises — Islamabad United, Karachi Kings, Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars — so there will be a lot on offer for the fans. Imagine the crowd when Karachi Kings take on Lahore Qalandars in Lahore on March 8. It's guaranteed to be a cracking atmosphere.
Along with more fans, the amount of overseas players willing to tour Pakistan points to the fact that overseas players are willing to come and play cricket in Pakistan. Five years after Zimbabwe toured Pakistan for five white ball matches — three ODIs and two T20Is — the sheer amount of players willing to come to Pakistan, including some well-known cricket superstars, points to the fact that Pakistan is now a safe place for cricket.
The PSL begins soon and it's going to be the biggest and the single most important tournament in Pakistan cricket's recent history, bearing in all the benefits the league, the board, the players and most importantly the fans stand to gain. PSL IS WELL AND TRULY BACK HOME.