By AZ Aamir
KARACHI: The HBL PSL 2021 exploded into action with a bang here at the National Stadium on Saturday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani said in his opening speech that due to Covid situation a restricted number of fans are being allowed to witness live action.
“If the situation improves more fans may be given an opportunity to witness the matches,” Mani said.
He said that it was because of the fans’ involvement which has made the PSL a huge brand. He also thanked foreign players and the corporate sector for making the event a big success.
The HBL president Aurangzeb said HBL is an integral part of this nation. “I sincerely hope that the fans will enjoy every moment of this tournament. Whichever team will win the eventual winner will be Pakistan,” he said.
The opening ceremony started on television at 6:45pm. The floodlights of the iconic venue were switched off and the fans, players and other officials watched the show on the venue’s big screens as well as on television.
Renowned actor and playback singer Atif Aslam, Imran Khan and model Humaima Malick also added to the beauty of the event with a super performance.
It was followed by superb Naseebo Lal, Aima Baig and Young Stunners who bewitched the audience due to their captivating PSL song filmed in Turkey. A superb fireworks show left everyone enchanted and it turned out to be the final segment of the brief display.
This was the second time on trot when National Stadium hosted the opening ceremony. The initial four ceremonies had been staged in the UAE which acted as hosts to the country’s marquee event which had been launched in 2016.
Thick security arrangements had been made with heavy contingents of police, Rangers, SSU units and other back-up forces delivering their services both inside and outside the venue. Major traffic routes around the venue covering a few kilometres had been sealed with heavy containers. A curfew-like situation had been created with the residents of the nearby localities facing huge communication issues as usual.
Even media crews, wearing accreditation cards around their necks, had to face big issues in reaching the venue. They were subjected to physical search, with their CNICs and accreditation cards double checked. Photojournalists also had to face entry issues through their respective gate.
As only 7500 spectators are allowed to witness matches at Karachi there was no buzz. Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators were brought into the venue amid unprecedented security arrangements.
Holders Kings were set to face Gladiators in the opener which was scheduled to begin at 8pm.
The six-team event has been restricted to only Karachi and Lahore due to Covid issues. In the first phase 20 matches will be conducted here at the National Stadium until March 7. The show will then be shifted to Lahore which will host the remaining 14 matches at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore from March 10 to 22.
Islamabad United have won the event two times while Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators and Karachi Kings have lifted the title once each. Last year Kings defeated Lahore Qalandars by five wickets in the final here at the National Stadium to lift the coveted title.
With Rs112million at offer, Rs80million will be spent on cash awards. The world’s renowned cricketers have been hired by the franchises for the world’s popular showpiece.
The PSL-6 trophy will be the same which had been offered to the winners last season as it would now be a running trophy.