Elaborate security arrangements for PSL final

There will be fireworks in Lahore on Sunday, as is natural considering the nature of the event, and it will be hoped that the attention, after all the drama, is only on the cricket.

Pakistani police officers stand guard beside walk through metal detectors specially installed at an entry gate of the Gaddafi Stadium for the final of the Pakistan Super League, in Lahore. The Gaddafi Stadium turned into a heavily guarded fortress on Saturday as Lahore prepared for the PSL final. Despite security fears, the Punjab provincial government gave the go-ahead to Sunday’s domestic Twenty20 final between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators.   -  AP

As the Pakistan Super League reaches its climax on Sunday, the drama and curiosity generated seem to be more about reasons other than cricket.

An elaborate security arrangement notwithstanding, the final is being staged in Lahore, the venue of the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka’s cricketers in 2009 that eventually isolated Pakistan. Understandably, despite a financial incentive to foreign players to participate in this rare high-profile match in Pakistan, many of them have backed out due to safety concerns.

The decision to host the PSL final in Lahore seems to be a punt taken by the Pakistan Cricket Board to help alleviate fears of the international cricket community, but it is a uphill task as the country is still clearly prone to breaches of security apparatus within cities and elsewhere for loss of lives. Just nine days ago, the city suffered a bomb blast that claimed eight lives.

The PCB’s earlier major attempt to end the drought of high-profile cricket in Pakistan was its convincing Zimbabwe Cricket for a limited-overs series in 2015. Although the tour passed safely for the visiting side, there was a suicide attack, albeit low-profile, in the middle of the series that generated some concern. The scepticism is likely to stay even if the PSL final is deemed a success.

Another matter impeded the image of the tournament. Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif were hauled up by the anti-corruption officials for wrongdoing in the first-half of the tournament, and barred from participating in it. Twenty20 leagues organised privately by regional boards have shown a vulnerability for suspicious activities, as revealed in the various corruption indiscretions in the Indian Premier League, and Mohammad Ashraful’s tearful confession of corruption in the Bangladesh Premier League. The PSL joined the league with this newest incident, a worrying reminder of a perpetual threat to cricket.

It cannot be said that the country had moved on from the embarrassing revelation in 2010. The expose by the now-defunct News of the World had resulted in three of its Test cricketers suffering punishment from the International Cricket Council and the law of the land (England) for jail time. Yet, before dust had settled on the issue, controversy surrounded the PSL with a similar problem.

Perhaps all other considerations could be peeled away to gauge the expectant extravaganza of cricket in the final. But here, too, the occasion is compromised by lack of considerable international stars and the pulling out of Shahid Afridi, perhaps Pakistan’s most attention-grabbing personality, with or without his spell of magic on the field. In the middle of the tournament, the 37-year-old indicated his international career was over. A final in a major city of Pakistan would have given his countrymen a rare chance to see him in action, but that, too, was ruled out when Afridi announced a finger injury had forced him to forego this chance.

There will be fireworks in Lahore on Sunday, as is natural considering the nature of the event, and it will be hoped that the attention, after all the drama, is only on the cricket.

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