2018 Pakistan Super League - how will it fare?

The third edition of the Pakistan Super League is upon us, and with it come many questions about whether it will this season take a step towards being one of the more prominent domestic T20 leagues in the world.

How has it gone so far?

2016

After an long an arduous planning process, the PSL finally got underway in 2016. In that season, five teams competed in a total of 24 games, with Islamabad United winning the inaugural championship. The attendance totalled 201,609, or an average of 8,400 per match, and equivalent to slightly less than the Caribbean Premier League in it’s first year. Marquee players in the tournament included the West Indies’ Andre Russell, Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, and of course a plethora of Pakistan stars.

2017

In 2017, the league saw steady growth. Again there were just five teams, and again they played a total of 24 games, but this time, 299,115 people attended the games – an average of 12,463 per game. This is a growth of nearly 150% in terms of attendance, and rivals the average attendance of the Big Bash League in it’s second season (14,379 per game). As a point of reference, the Big Bash just finished it’s seven season, now averages 26,531 people per match, and lures many of the biggest names in the world to Australia each summer.

The increase in attendances was likely correlated to the higher quality players who involved themselves in the second season of the league. Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum joined the Lahore Qalanders,while stars Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle and Mahela Jayawardene all signed with the Karachi Kings.

And this year?

Clearly, organisers of the Pakistan Super League are confident that the two-year trend will continue, having added a sixth team to the tournament for the upcoming season. The depth of talent appears to justify this decision, with a number of quality new players choosing to join the league this season. Alongside most of the stars from last year, Chris Lynn, Kevin Pietersen and Rilee Roussow will join the party, as will numerous other high profile players.

The 2018 edition of the PSL will feature a number of extra matches, with 34 to be played – 10 more than in the previous two seasons.

The betting odds suggest that this will be a tightly contested tournament. All five teams to have competed in the last couple of tournaments are listed between $4-$6 to win the tournament, while new addition the Multan Sultans are a little further back at $7.50. The closeness of these odds is testament to organisers of the tournament, who have developed a draft system (instead of an auction, as seen in other tournaments like the IPL) which seems to favour equality.

All signs point to the 2018 season of the PSL being the best yet. The new team will invariably provide extra competition, and the depth of high-class players on all six lists suggests this addition will not dilute the quality of competition. Kicking off on February 22 and running through to March 25, this tournament is looking likely to provide some compelling cricket.