KARACHI: Following the huge success of the inaugural edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February this year, its chairman Najam Sethi is confident about doing even better in its second edition in 2017, which he says will be a substantially improved one in terms of international signings, profits and several other aspects.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn, Sethi said Pakistan cricket fans have every reason to be excited about PSL2 which may well see its final getting played in Lahore, hopefully in March next year.
“The HBL PSL’s inaugural edition was a phenomenal success and we proved the naysayers wrong,” said Sethi who is also head of PCB Executive Committee.
“The second edition of the League will be better. The players’ draft and opening ceremonies will be on a grander scale. The pitches will be more sporting, and more importantly, you will see more international stars taking part in PSL2 besides greater fan engagement.”
Asked to elaborate on who will be the star attractions this time, Sethi said: “We have already announced two major signings — Kiwi legend Brendon McCullum and England ODI and T20 captain Eoin Morgan. Malinga and Albie Morkel are also in. The others we will announce soon.”
Speaking about the players’ draft for PSL2, Sethi said it will likely be held in the UAE since the time is too short in between Pakistan’s international series to hold one in the country.
“The draft will take place in the UAE because of logistical reasons,” he said.
“As you already know, our national team and top PSL players will be engaged in a pre-scheduled bilateral series against the West Indies. We cannot ask our players to travel to Pakistan for the draft two or three days in between important games. We can also line up part of our roster of foreign players there.”
Sethi added that since the players’ draft is a media event and not a stadium event, the PCB will get maximum coverage in the UAE because “we will give the feed to all national TV channels”.
When queried about the players’ retention at the franchises as well as their transfer procedures, Sethi said: “Franchises can retain up to 16 players from their existing squads. This includes all players who were drafted by the franchises, regardless of whether they were able to join the team. This retention window closes on Sept 14 this year.”
He further said that during this phase, teams can also renegotiate with existing players and do trade-offs.
“If a team does not retain a player in a particular category, then they have the option to draft a new player in that category. This is why new signings are so interesting.,” said Sethi.
“Teams would want to take on champions like McCullum and Morgan and will, therefore, make strategic calls about their existing squads.”
And what about the captains and the coaches, will the franchise retain them or are free to part ways with them?
“This is a question for the franchises and they have full authority to decide on who they want to appoint as their captain and coach,” he said.
Sethi further said that the there will be greater room for younger players to showcase their talent in PSL2 while the Emerging Players category will be fully utilised this time round.
“I cannot give you a number since the draft list has to be finalised, but what I can tell you is that the Emerging Players category will be for U-23 players (as of Jan 1, 2017),” said Sethi.
“One of the criticisms we faced last year was that the Emerging Players category was not exactly how it should have been. So we have taken a decision to change that. One of these emerging players will have to be from the franchise’s home region, ensuring better regional representation.”
Speaking about the exact dates and venues of PSL2, Sethi said: “We are looking at first week of February to the first week of March in the UAE. I am trying very hard to have the final in Lahore.”
When asked to comment on how independent is the PSL set-up within the PCB and whether PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan has any say in its matters, Sethi was quite candid in his reply.
“The PSL Secretariat is led by a Governing Council that includes myself, the COO and CFO of PCB. It has been appointed by the Board of Governors (BoG). It is autonomous in its day to day operations and the BoG has ordered us to set up a Section 42 company for the purpose. Of course, the PCB chairman and BoG are kept fully briefed about its activities at all times.”
So what could be expected of PSL2 in terms of profits?
“Every start up has a gestation period to become profitable. But we did remarkably well in making profits of $2.6 m in the first year that exceed all financial expectations. The product will only grow from here after we induct the 6th, 7th and 8th teams in the years ahead,” he said.
“Like any other League, real growth will happen in the next rights cycle with the addition of new teams and sponsors. So right now, we are looking at consolidating the League and improving on multiple fronts such as player acquisition, fan engagement, franchise activation, etc.”
As for his own future as the PSL chief, Sethi said: “Obviously, I will not remain in office forever. Everyone has to move on. Therefore, my endeavour as PSL chairman is to ensure that we put the right people there, and through these people, the right systems in place.
“In the years to come, we do not want PSL to be dependent on individuals. The League must flourish on its own and this is exactly what my plan is. The purpose of setting up PSL as a separate Section 42 non profit company with several independent non executive directors is to ensure that it remains professional.”
Najam Sethi’s interview with Abdul Ghaffar was published in Dawn on 12th July 2016.