HBL Pakistan Super League has sported the appearance of 77 foreign international cricket stars over the past three editions.
England leads the charts, with the number of its players that have graced PSL pitches at 24. 17 West Indian players, nine South Africans, seven Bangladeshi, six each from Australia and New Zealand, four from Sri Lanka, two from Zimbabwe and one each from Afghanistan and Netherlands are part of those 77.
According to New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi — currently sporting an Islamabad United jersey — there was a lot of excitement all around when the team landed in Karachi for the HBL PSL final last year.
“The energy in the city was amazing and it felt like we were part of a big festival,” Ronchi said.
He added: “Winning the HBL PSL trophy for Islamabad United in Karachi is a memory that I will cherish for a long time. The game got pretty close for our liking in the end, but it was nice to see the fans getting to watch some exciting cricket.”
The wicket-keeper opening batsman topped the batting charts in the HBL PSL 2018 with 435 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 182.00.
Daren Sammy, the West Indies all-rounder who captains Peshawar Zalmi, has cultivated a strong bond with his fans through his performance in HBL PSL.
“I have a very special relationship with Pakistan and every time I interact with Pakistani fans or play in front of them, it just fills my heart with so much joy,” Sammy said.
“When we all took that first step with the HBL PSL 2017 final in Lahore, we knew we were doing something much more important than just playing a game of cricket. From that point onwards, we have seen a slow but very steady return of high-profile cricket to Pakistan.”
“Seeing young kids in Pakistan enjoying the game at the stadium, hopefully learning a thing or two from some of us cricketers, and then going on to be a part of the next generation of cricketers, that is just a beautiful feeling to have. I am just very glad that I was able to play a small but meaningful role in this entire process.”
Ravi Bopara, England all-rounder and most talked about overseas cricketer in the inaugural edition of HBL PSL in 2016 is a member of the Karachi Kings squad.
He finished the tournament with 329 runs and 11 wickets, the highlight being his 43-ball 71 not out innings followed by six wickets for 16 runs against Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah. He also took three wickets in the eliminator against Zalmi in Lahore last year.
“The energy in Lahore last year was amazing. I cannot forget how the fans welcomed us with open arms and all of them – young and old – had incredible passion for the game. I remember it rained a lot before our game against Zalmi and the organisers brought in helicopters to get the field ready. That is how much it meant to them,” he said.
England’s Liam Dawson has played the tournament for Peshawar Zalmi and in his very first match he bagged three wickets for 20 runs against Qalandars in Sharjah in 2018.
Reflecting on his time as part of the franchise, Dawson says: “I had the pleasant experience of playing three games in Pakistan last year and I have to say that the crowds in Pakistan are just on another level. They obviously want more cricket back home so each game was a special experience for us as players.”
He added: “I remember having the option of heading back to Dubai after the play-off in Lahore and then flying back to Karachi for the final but once I got there and saw the way everything was organised, it just felt very safe and I stayed on. I am glad that I made that choice.”