Lahore, 8 February 2019 : The HBL Pakistan Super League is one of the most exciting, challenging and competitive cricket leagues in the world and the appearance of 77 foreign international cricket stars over the past three editions is a testament to this statement.
England leads the pack of fielding most number of players – 24 – followed by the West Indies (17), South Africa (nine), Bangladesh (seven), Australia and New Zealand (six each), Sri Lanka (four), Zimbabwe (two) and Afghanistan and the Netherlands (one each).
From Andre Russell, who was the leading wicket-taker in the inaugural event in 2016, to Luke Ronchi, the most prolific batsman in the previous edition, there have been number of foreign internationals who have produced stunning performances to contribute in making the league what it is today.
While the fans and supporters of the league have appreciated their contributions and performances, the players have never minced words in expressing their gratitude. This has a formed a unique bonding between the foreign players and the Pakistan cricket fans which continues to get stronger and stronger with every passing edition.
In this article, we hear from some of the stars about their experiences of playing in the HBL PSL.
Luke Ronchi (Islamabad United)
The wicket-keeper opening batsman from New Zealand topped the batting charts in the third HBL PSL with 435 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 182.00.
Ronchi was the backbone of Islamabad United’s second title as he scored five half-centuries in 11 innings, including 52 off 26 balls in the final against Peshawar Zalmi in Karachi.
Ronchi recalls: “There was a lot of excitement all around when we 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.
“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.”
Daren Sammy (Peshawar Zalmi)
The West Indies all-rounder took over the leadership duties in the second HBL PSL in 2017 and in his very first assignment as captain, won the title for Zalmi in the historic final in Lahore.
Due to his enterprising captaincy and four years association with the franchise, the Zalmi fans share special love with him.
“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 says.
“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 (Karachi Kings)
The England all-rounder was the most talked about overseas cricketer in the inaugural edition of HBL PSL in 2016. Bopara 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,” says Bopara.
Liam Dawson (Peshawar Zalmi)
In his very first match for the Zalmi, the England all-rounder bagged three wickets for 20 runs against Qalandars in Sharjah in 2018 – the best figures by an overseas player on HBL PSL debut.
Dawson’s performance was one of the driving forces behind Zalmi’s journey to the final in the last HBL PSL.
He is best remembered for taking three wickets for 17 runs in a must-win game against Karachi Kings in 2018, and also played two knock-out matches for Zalmi in Lahore and the final in Karachi.
Reflecting on his time, 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.
“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.”