Samaa’s readers take a keen interest in the T20 league
The Pakistan Super League is the country’s premium domestic competition and Samaa’s readers take a keen interest in every match just like the rest of Pakistan. We rank the six teams in terms of how popular their stories were among our audience:
It comes as no surprise that last year’s runners-up Peshawar Zalmi are the most popular Pakistan Super League side among Samaa’s readers.
Darren Sammy’s men are hugely popular among the neutrals as well as the country’s cricket-crazy Pashtuns, especially after being captained by Shahid Afridi in the first edition — still arguably the most popular cricketer in Pakistan.
Pakistanis love themselves some fast-bowlers and the PSL’s top two all-time wicket-takers in Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz both wear the yellow of Peshawar, capturing the hearts and imaginations of millions with their unique celebrations after every wicket.
Current skipper Sammy is also an immensely popular figure in Pakistan and has been vocal about his support for the country as it bids to revive international cricket at home.
Add to that the tournament’s top-scorer in Kamran Akmal and global superstars such as Keiron Pollard, and it is easy to see why Peshawar Zalmi are the country’s most popular side.
Peshawar will find ample support in the stadiums regardless of where they play across the country as the league returns home in its entirety for the 2020 edition.
Quetta may have finally won the tournament last year when they defeated Peshawar in the final but they have been unable to overtake them as the league’s most popular team.
The Gladiators have a strong core of Karachi players — which makes them just as popular as the Karachi Kings in the country’s most populated city — while also holding a partisan fan base in Balochistan.
Their successful campaign last year meant they made the headlines for all the right reasons as they dominated season four from start to finish.
The presence of former Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and the likes of local household names such as Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Naseem Shah and Muhammad Hasnain ensures Quetta will continue to capture the attention of Samaa’s readers in 2020.
Sprinkle the likes of World Cup winners Shane Watson and Jason Roy on top of that and you have the perfect recipe for an incredibly popular team.
The PSL’s most successful side is only third in terms of popularity among Samaa readers but Islamabad have failed to capture the country’s loyalty partly because of their association with the capital city.
Peshawar represents Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta is Balochistan’s, Karachi is for all of Sindh and Punjab have Multan and Lahore, but Islamabad represents everyone and therefore no one in particular.
Islamabad United also had a poor campaign by their own lofty standards, which may have dented their popularity. The team that finished third in the table was also third in terms of popularity.
The side had also lost the legendary playing duo of Misbah-ul-Haq and Saeed Ajmal, causing their star attraction to diminish a bit despite still boasting the country’s ace T20 spinner Shadab Khan in their ranks.
Their top wicket-taker in Faheem Ashraf, with his accurate bowling and canny change of pace, just doesn’t capture the hearts of Pakistanis in the same way that the adrenaline-pumping, searing speeds of Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali do.
Karachi have failed to match their status as the most expensive side of the country’s largest city in terms of performances both on and off the pitch.
The side boast some of the country’s biggest superstars but are yet to reach a final or even attract fans the way the other teams have. The two most popular athletes among Samaa readers for 2019 — T20I skipper Babar Azam and pace spearhead Muhammad Amir — both play for Karachi Kings but neither have managed to take the side to the levels expected from the side in terms of popularity or silverware.
The Kings have been dogged by controversies, including a constant criticism that the city isn’t represented enough in the squad, and that has clearly taken a hit on their popularity with Karachi divided between supporting the team that bears its name and the team that has the most players from the city.
Skipper Imad Wasim, wicketkeeper-batsman Muhammad Rizwan and all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed are all established Pakistan internationals that will feature for the Karachi Kings this year and the side will be hoping to win their first title this time around.
There is little doubt where the loyalties of Lahore lie but the Qalandars have been so poor on the field that there has been very little for their supporters to shout about.
The side have finished bottom of every single PSL campaign so far and the fact that they are yet to reach the play-offs goes a long way towards explaining why they are fifth in terms of popularity.
Fawad Rana remains the most popular owner of any PSL side but there is only so much he can do from the sidelines.
Even the addition of T20 giants such as Brendon McCullum, AB de Villiers and Sunil Narine have failed to help them climb up the table in terms of both popularity and points.
The Punjab side is the youngest team of the PSL after being added just two years ago and they are still developing their fan base.
Star turns such Afridi, Pollard, Shoaib Malik and Kumar Sangakkara have all turned out for Multan at one time or the other but, like Lahore, they are yet to reach the playoffs and are still considered one of the outsiders.
Multan have retained Afridi for this season and the veteran all-rounder’s mere presence will attract a huge fan base, while three of the country’s finest left-arm pacers in Junaid Khan, Muhammad Irfan and Sohail Tanvir are also expected to line-up alongside the charismatic Afridi.
The English duo of Moeen Ali and Ravi Bopara are immensely popular in the country and Multan can expect to be much more popular among Samaa readers next year, especially if their performances on the field improve.