KARACHI: The focus will return to the playing field on Sunday after PCB’s patron-in-chief President Asif Ali Zardari, following all hue and cry, took timely action to shift the Faysal Bank T20 Cup from dengue-plagued Lahore to the National Stadium, Karachi.
The highlight of the tournament’s eighth edition is obviously the foreign flavour in the shape of Afghan Cheetahs, who are the national champions of the game’s shortest format back home in Afghanistan.
Their participation is a welcome relief to the cricket-starved public of Karachi who last saw most of the national heroes in action when the tournament held here from February 28 to March 7, 2010.
The PCB has a mandatory policy in place since the Twenty20 segment made its debut on the domestic cricket front in 2004 to ensure the country’s top players turn out for their respective regional sides.
The addition of Afghan Cheetahs will further add to the drama that will ultimately decide who will pocket the trophy as well the Rs2.5 million bounty to be presented to the champions.
This time too the competition promises a lot of thrills and spills as Lahore Lions defend the crown they won for the first time when they beat the Shahid Afridi-led Karachi Dolphins, who are saddled with the unhappy tag of underachievers since they are yet to be crowned champions despite repeated attempts in several finals they have figured in.
The Dolphins suffered more pain as recently as July 1 when Rawalpindi Rams upstaged their fancied opponents in the first Faysal Super Eight final in a one-over eliminator at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad.
Sialkot Stallions will be hoping that the National Stadium proves lucky for them again as they bid for their sixth title, After missing out in the inaugural edition, the Stallions galloped to their way to five successive titles.
Faisalabad Wolves, who are skippered yet again by Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, have not annexed the trophy after winning the first-ever event. Inevitably not for the first time, they will be starting as one of the favourites.
With Mohammad Yousuf opting out altogether, experienced all-rounder Abdul Razzaq is available to lead Lahore Lions after his English T20 champions Leicestershire side failed to make the cut for the ongoing Champions League’s main round in India.
Younis Khan, the veteran Pakistan batsman who had played for Peshawar Panthers in the past, meanwhile has added some twist to the competition by stating his desire to play for Abbottabad Falcons rather than Karachi Zebras.
According to sources, the PCB was in process of sorting out this otherwise immaterial development along with a few more aspirants of some other competing teams who want to emulate Younis.
Groups and schedule:
Group ‘A’: Karachi Zebras, Lahore Eagles, Abbottabad Falcons, Quetta Bears.
Group ‘B’: Faisalabad Wolves, Multan Tigers, Rawalpindi Rams, Afghan Cheetahs.
Group ‘C’: Sialkot Stallions, Lahore Lions, Hyderabad Hawks.
Group ‘D’: Karachi Dolphins, Islamabad Leopards, Peshawar Panthers.
Sept 25: Abbottabad Falcons v Quetta Bears (12:00 noon); Lahore Lions v Hyderabad Hawks (4:00pm); Karachi Zebras v Lahore Eagles (8:00pm).
Sept 26: Sialkot Stallions v Hyderabad Hawks (12:00 noon); Karachi Zebras v Quetta Bears (4:00pm); Lahore Eagles v Abbottabad Falcons (8:00pm).
Sept 27: Lahore Eagles v Quetta Bears (12:00noon); Karachi Zebras v Abbottabad Falcons (8:00pm).
Sept 28: Islamabad Leopards v Peshawar Panthers (12:00 noon); Faisalabad Wolves v Multan Tigers (4:00pm); Afghan Cheetahs (8:00pm).
Sept 29: Multan Tigers v Rawalpindi Rams (12:00 noon); Faisalabad Wolves v Afghan Cheetahs (4:00pm); Karachi Dolphins v Islamabad Leopards (8:00pm).
Sept 30: Multan Tigers v Afghan Cheetahs (12:00 noon); Faisalabad Wolves v Rawalpindi Rams (4:00pm); Karachi Dolphins v Peshawar Panthers (8:00pm).
Oct 1: First semi-final –– Group ‘A’ winners v Group ‘C’ winners – (4:00pm); Second semi-final – Group ‘B’ winners v Group ‘D’ winners – (8:00pm).
Oct 2: Final (7:00pm).