LAHORE: The caretaker government has green signalled the commencement of the ninth season of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) a day after the general elections — which are scheduled for Feb. 8, the day also earmarked for the PSL opener

The go-ahead was given by Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar to the Pakistan Cricket Board’s interim management committee chief Zaka Ashraf during a meeting at the premier’s office in Islamabad on Monday.

The decision puts to bed doubts over the upcoming PSL edition’s venue to bed after its franchises had suggested moving the tournament to the United Arab Emirates citing security challenges due to the long-awaited polls.

The PCB, however, in its press release later, said that PM Kakar had suggested the board to consider “adjustments to the HBL PSL matches to prevent any interference with the voting process”.

A number of topics came under discussion during the meeting between Kakar and Zaka, including about Pakistan’s upcoming three-match Test series against Australia.

To brief on that, the national side’s team director Mohammad Hafeez, bowling coach Umar Gul and spin bowling coach Saeed Ajmal attended the two-hour long meeting.

According to sources, the officials were asked to “give their best” on the tough tour Down Under before Hafeez assured that to the prime minister, adding that the team was in good fighting shape to give tough time to the current World Test champions.

Dawn understands that the PCB’s interim committee chairman also discussed the stance of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over visiting Pakistan for the 2025 Champions Trophy as well as about the bilateral cricket ties between the two countries.

Zaka told the premier that it was due to the Indian government’s disapproval that the country’s team couldn’t come to Pakistan and that the issue needs to be taken up at a level higher than that of cricket boards.

The PCB chief briefed Kakar over the requirement of renovation for Pakistan’s international cricket venues for the Champions Trophy, for which the prime minister assured foolproof security.

Sources said that Zaka was enquired about Pakistan’s dismal show in the recent 50-over World Cup in India. The interim committee chief told Kakar that he trusted the team management staff appointed by his predecessor Najam Sethi.

Moreover, the prime minister also ordered to hand over some grounds of Islamabad, including Diamond Club and Tehseen ground of Gilgit-Baltistan to the PCB.

Sources said that Kakar assured that he would write letters to Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s heads of states to sign agreements with the PCB for the promotion of cricket in their countries.

No discussion whatsoever was made about the PCB’s pending elections despite Zaka’s committee’s mandate being mainly conducting the polls.

The incumbent committee has to complete the task of holding the elections for the PCB’s chairman for a three-year term. The second term of the committee expires on Feb 4 after an extension of three months, extending its tenure to seven months.

The PCB further said in its press release that Kakar “expressed his encouragement and appreciation for the initiatives taken by the PCB management committee”.

“He emphasised the importance of expanding the reach of cricket across the country, particularly in remote and northern areas,” the statement read.

“Prime Minister Kakar assured the PCB of full assistance for the seamless execution of the upcoming ninth edition of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL). He guaranteed the relevant security arrangements during HBL PSL 2024, taking into account the Pakistan General Elections.

“Discussions also ensued regarding the feasibility of incorporating a gap day in the tournament to accommodate the elections.”

The PCB confirmed that the prime minister urged the PCB to work on improving its ties with other cricket boards including the BCCI.

“PM Kakar commended the PCB’s commitment to improving ties with other cricket boards,” said the press release. “He highlighted the importance of strengthening relations with cricket boards such as CA, BCCI and ECB.”

The PCB statement added that the board was told to boost its preparations to hold the Champions Trophy while also assuring government support.

“PM Kakar urged the PCB to align with stakeholders and security agencies for the successful hosting of the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan,” it read. “He also affirmed the government’s support for the endeavours undertaken by the PCB to promote cricket at all levels in the country.”

 

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