A spectator during the Pakistan vs Zimbabwe 2015 series asking India to play cricket in Pakistan © Getty Images
A spectator during the Pakistan vs Zimbabwe 2015 series asking India to play cricket in Pakistan © Getty Images

Matching the modern-day trend of hosting a city-based franchise T20 league, Pakistan also added its bit with an extravaganza named Pakistan Super League (PSL). There is no shadow of doubt that the tournament has been a success in such a short span. However, the matches had to be hosted away from the country, citing security reasons. READ: Lahore turns into fortress ahead of PSL 2017 final

2017 breaks the norm, hosting this season’s final at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. PSL 2017 has had its own share of popularity, often for the wrong reasons. Players such as Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif have been tainted with spot-fixing charges. All the same, that will not be the only reason to make this season memorable, as the much talked-about finale will eventually steal the thunder.

Let us ride the virtual time machine and check what had exactly happened at Gaddafi Stadium. It was Day Three of the second Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The visiting team was en route stadium for the match when a certain group of gunmen aimed at the team bus. Seven players including Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Chaminda Vaas and assistant coach Paul Farbrace were injured. The biggest injury was that of umpire Ahsan Raza, who was shot twice and was found in a serious condition. Of course, the match had to be called off. The cricketers were escorted from ground to Lahore airport in a helicopter and were sent back home. Unfortunately, six from police force and two civilians lost their lives.

This was not the first time such an incident had taken place in Pakistan. Back in 2002, it was the New Zealand team who were under the radar. A suicide attack outside their hotel had forced them to go back home.

Since 2009, only one team has shown the bravery of touring Pakistan, and that is Zimbabwe in 2015. “Why would they miss an opportunity to play amidst the roaring Pakistani crowd?,” expressed my colleague Abhishek Kumar. Yes, Zimbabwe had nothing to lose as their cricket was in the downward spiral. If anything, they were hungry for more cricket. So were Pakistan at home.

Pakistan have played international cricket at home already after the unfortunate incident. Hence, the question beckons: why does the PSL final hold such importance?

It is important looking at the impact of the game and the names associated with it. Renowned international players have been a part of the tournament. With Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators reaching the final, there was a chance of players such as Kevin Pietersen and Rillee Rossouw playing on Pakistan soil, and that too at Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

However, the players, along with others such as Luke Wright and Tymal Mills, denied coming to Lahore. For Quetta Gladiators, it has become more like the Pakistan team playing at Lahore. Though the team found replacement for foreign players, they could not fill in the impact. One positive, though, is the decision of the Peshawar Zalmi overseas players who agreed to stick to the team and play in the final. Names such as Darren Sammy, Dawid Malan, Marlon Samuels and Chris Jordan will be a part of the final along with Gladiators’ mentor Sir Viv Richards and player-turned-commentator Dean Jones.

However, if not all players are comfortable playing at the venue, it questions their trust on Pakistan’s security measures. This doubt almost nullifies the effort of organising the final at Lahore.

Talking about security, Pakistan left no stone unturned to make sure the players are safe. In the pursuit, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) ensured five-layer security, a makeshift medical set-up at the adjacent National Hockey Stadium and bulletproof buses for the players to and fro the stadium. READ: PSL 2017: Five-layer security for final in Lahore

All these will reduce the chances of any mishap, but the big question is: how feasible will it be for Pakistan to organise such security measures each time there is a match in the country?

Former player and politician Imran Khan shed some light on the same. “If something inimical happened on the final day then it will prove to be the end of international cricket in Pakistan,” the Pakistan legend told Express Tribune. Imran Khan: Hosting PSL 2017 Final in ‘curfew like situation’ would dampen PAK’s image

“You can hold a match even in war-hit Syria or Iraq by deputing 60,000 security personnel to guard a crowd of 30,000 visitors inside a stadium,” he criticised.

After the February 13 suicide bombing in Lahore that took 13 lives, more concerns are raised regarding security. Arranging the final at Lahore is one of the riskiest attempts by PCB so far, but Pakistan had to take this risk in a bid to re-establish themselves as a safe home for international cricket. The PSL final this year, in all probability, will not only be a battle for the cup, but a fight of a nation for gaining the long-lost trust.