LAHORE: Pakistan Super League (PSL) chairman Najam Sethi on Tuesday said the PSL final would be held in Lahore if cricket fans and citizens of Pakistan were ready to watch the game without foreign players. “The foreign players have refused to play the final in Lahore after Monday’s blast but if the citizens of Pakistan want the final of the PSL to be held in Lahore despite foreign players not participating in the final then the final will be held in Lahore,” Sethi said in his TV show. He said that security agencies had promised to provide full security for the match and left it to the fans to decide if they wanted the final in Lahore or not.
The explosion, which has so far claimed 13 lives, went off in Lahore’s busy Mall Road during a rally on Monday attended by hundreds of pharmacists protesting against changes to a drug sale law outside the provincial assembly building. Ever since the PSL announced that the final will be played in Lahore, the question of whether – and which – foreign players might attend has loomed. Sethi briefed foreign players about the security situation in Lahore last week ahead of the start of the league in Dubai but even then they were hesitant to travel to Lahore. The player had concerns about playing the final in Lahore even after the security team along with former and current players assured them about their safety. The foreign players said they would only travel to Lahore if the Federation of International Cricket’s Association (FICA) ensured that Lahore was safe.
Sethi said that though the players had a number of questions and didn’t commit, “they were mentally preparing to play in Lahore.” By February 24th or 25th, if the players had not decided or were not ready to travel, the league was going to hold another draft to see which foreign players from any of other franchises were willing to travel to Lahore play for the finalists. “What can I tell you?” Sethi said when asked what the reactions of foreign players were after news of the bombing. “Obviously people will be more wary and scared – they were already and now will be more. So right now to say whether we can convince them easily is very difficult… Now I will have to start all over again. I cannot say that we will be successful or not because they have families, they will have their associations which will guide them.”
Sethi asked the public to decide whether they want to see a final in Lahore most likely only with Pakistan players or a final in Dubai with foreign players as well. Sethi did expand on his personal belief that the final should go ahead and be played in Lahore. “People were calling me up as well and saying that whatever the situation this is Pakistan’s resolve that the PSL final has to happen in Lahore. That we have to show terrorists that we are not scared and we have to show we can do it because it is very important for us. I agree with this and this is my thought. But the situation is this that the question Pakistanis have to answer is if the foreign players do not agree to come to Lahore, or a lot of them don’t, should we still have a final with just Pakistan players in Lahore, or should we have it with foreign players and do it in Dubai? This is the question the Pakistani public has to answer and whatever their wish we will see to it.” Last month, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations issued a report warning that an “acceptable level of participant security and safety cannot be expected or guaranteed” in Pakistan. In response, the PCB accused FICA of doing “great disservice to the cause of Pakistan cricket in particular” and called their approach “careless and cavalier”, which then prompted FICA to issue a justification. -The Educationist Monitoring