Self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle will help ring in the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League in Karachi, with spectators returning to Pakistan’s cricket stadiums for the first time in a year.
Pakistan’s government has allowed the Pakistan Cricket Board to admit 20 percent capacity of fans inside stadiums for the country’s premier Twenty20 league, maintaining proper social distancing and making masks mandatory for spectators.
The decision meant the National Stadium in Karachi will accommodate 7,500 fans and Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium 5,500.
“Without crowd there was no enjoyment,” said Quetta Gladiators wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed.
“It’s the great news that we will be playing in front of our own crowds after a long time.”
Gayle, the West Indies batsman, headlines a slimmer roster of international cricketers joining the Twenty20 league in the wake of the pandemic.
Gayle will be suiting up with the Gladiators against holders Karachi for his first T20 appearance on Pakistani soil.
“The Universe Boss is here in Pakistan all right,” he said in a video message released by the team. “All my Pakistan fans, I am looking forward to entertaining you … so stay tuned.”
This year’s tournament features several foreign players including the PSL debut of top-ranked Afghan spinner Rashid Khan.
England will be represented by James Vince, Tom Banton and Adam Lyth, among others.
Last year, four league games were held in Karachi and Lahore without spectators before the play-offs were cancelled after English batsman Alex Hales revealed symptoms of the coronavirus.
The remainder of the season was rescheduled, with three play-offs and a final held without fans.
The PCB is confident that it is now well-versed in implementing its COVID-19 procedures, with only one local player being expelled for violating protocols during a domestic game.
More than 120 players, 60 support staff and about a dozen match officials will remain in a biosecure bubble for the PSL tournament.
“COVID-19 and cricket can co-exist, provided we follow the proper protocols,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said.
Mani admitted that a large number of fans will be disappointed due to limited seating available both in Karachi and Lahore. However, the government will review crowd capacity at Karachi’s Gaddafi Stadium before the play-offs and next month’s final in Lahore.
Karachi Kings defeated archrivals Lahore Qalandars in the final in November.