KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s biggest city will stage a high-profile cricket match for the first time in nine years on Sunday. The Pakistan Super League final will be held amid heavy security at a newly renovated National Stadium in Karachi.
More than 8,000 security personnel have been deployed for the Twenty20 final between Islamabad United and last year’s champions, Peshawar Zalmi.
Presidential-like security has been put in place on routes from the hotel to the stadium. For practice on Saturday, the team vans were surrounded by a fleet of security vehicles carrying armed guards.
“It’s been really good. All the logistical works have been done behind the scenes, and we’ve been brought here pretty safely,” Islamabad United stand-in captain JP Duminy said.
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“It’s obviously going to be an exciting occasion to be part of PSL final and more specifically being in Karachi.”
Islamabad United’s regular captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, has not fully recovered from a hand injury.
The last major game with international players in Karachi was in February 2009, a Pakistan-Sri Lanka test.
On the same tour, terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team convoy at Lahore that March. Six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed, and six members of the Sri Lanka team were injured.
That resulted in an end to international cricket in the country, and the Pakistan Cricket Board moved its home matches to the United Arab Emirates.
The PCB has gradually convinced international players to return, and Lahore hosted the first PSL final last year, and there were Twenty20s organized against a World XI (three matches) and Sri Lanka (one).
A reluctance from some international PSL players to play in Pakistan remains. The preliminary matches were played at Dubai and Sharjah in the UAE.
Australian Shane Watson (Quetta Gladiators) and Englishmen Eoin Morgan (Karachi) and Kevin Pietersen (Quetta) refused to accompany their teams to Lahore this week for two PSL eliminators.
The absence of the top stars hurt both franchises and drew an angry response from Gladiators coach and former Pakistan captain Moin Khan.
“We, in the coming season, should only pick players who have the consent to visit Pakistan,” Moin said after losing the first eliminator against Zalmi.
“We do not need to push for individuality as our league has now become a bigger brand … we don’t need to get these players who don’t want to come to Pakistan. In fact, this is hurting Pakistan as it is sending a negative signal and affects our country’s image as well.”
Other internationals playing in the final include Peshawar Zalmi’s Darren Sammy of West Indies and Chris Jordan of England, and for Islamabad United, JP Duminy of South Africa and Luke Ronchi of New Zealand.