LAHORE: Najam Sethi, the PCB executive committee head and chairman of the Pakistan Super League, has asked the Punjab government to initiate a process to stage the PSL final in Lahore in March 2017. If some foreign players among the finalists were not willing to play in Pakistan, then the franchisees would be allowed to pick from a pool of foreign players who were ready to play in Pakistan, according to Sethi. The final is likely to be held on March 9.
"All systems being put in place," Sethi told ESPNcricinfo. "We are in the process of signing up top foreign players who are ready to play in Lahore if their team gets into the final. All we need are ten top foreign players. If there are some foreign players among the finalists who are not prepared to play in Lahore, we will have an arrangement with others who don't make it to the finals, and facilitate the finalist franchisees to select from that pool of players who are available to play in Lahore."
Pakistan has been untenable as an international venue ever since terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009. Zimbabwe became the first Full-Member nation to visit Pakistan since that incident, but the ICC refused to send its match officials for the series in May 2015.
Pakistan then appointed their own match officials, and hoped the Zimbabwe series would serve as a stepping stone to revive international cricket in the country. That ambition, however, suffered a setback when a suicide attack took place near the Gaddafi Stadium during the second ODI. Zimbabwe played the third and final ODI two days later and completed the tour, but the PCB failed to convince any other side to visit the country since.
The effort to host the PSL final in Lahore is another step towards bringing top-flight cricket back to Pakistan, and ESPNcricinfo understands that it is at a primary stage. "Look, it is only a question of one day in Lahore," Sethi said. "We can organise fool-proof security. The teams can be flown in and out within 24 hours. We have four armoured buses for transportation and the Punjab police has already demonstrated its efficiency in this regard when Zimbabwe toured last year.
"Most importantly, the government has succeeded in uprooting most terrorist groups from Punjab. This fact is not lost on the ICC members. Foreign teams will come to Pakistan step by step. Ireland are ready to visit on the right financial terms because Zimbabwe showed the way. The West Indies were in discussions with us but pulled back when the Gulshan bomb went off. If we can demonstrate a successful PSL final in Lahore the message will go out loud and clear that at least short tours in one venue are possible. I personally think that by next year we should be able to hold T20 and ODI matches in Lahore or Karachi with foreign teams."
The PCB had initially contacted top agencies, which handle over 100 international players, to consider playing the first season of the PSL in Pakistan. The response, however, was overwhelmingly negative, which forced the board to move the tournament to the UAE.
West Indies allrounder Andre Russell, however, became the first high-profile overseas player in the inaugural PSL to express a willingness to play in Pakistan. Other players such as Shane Watson and Darren Sammy had said they would travel to Pakistan subject to security clearance.