Finally the ice has melted and the current Pakistan domestic Twenty20 champions, Lahore Lions, get visas from the Indian government to participate in the 6th Champions League Twenty20.
Faisalabad Wolves, Pakistan’s domestic T20 champions, participated in the Champions League in 2013 and had a terrible experience during their stay in India. They were forced out of their city hotel in Chandigarh and were moved to the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium because their visas were valid only for Mohali.
Five editions of the T20 Champions League have been organised so far. The first was held in India in 2009, which was won by Australia’s New South Wales. The second was held in South Africa and Chennai Super King were the winners.
In 2011 the league came back to India and was won by Mumbai Indians. Sydney Sixers of Australia became the champions in 2012.
Mumbai Indians then took back the title in the fifth edition in India.
This year £2.5m is the winning prize that was described as “unprecedented” in cricket.
Despite the PCB’s support to the BCCI at every forum, Pakistan’s players remain deprived of the chance to show their talent in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Pakistani players have been barred from participating in the IPL since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. They took part only in the first edition of IPL, in 2008, in which 11 Pakistani cricketers played for different franchises.
In 2010, despite being included in the IPL auction, no Pakistani player was hired, although Pakistan had recently won the T20 World Cup, in 2009.
Only Pakistani commentators – Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja – and umpires – Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf – were allowed.
Lions will be the third team from Pakistan to participate in the Champions League, after Faisalabad Wolves in 2013 and Sialkot Stallions in 2012 in South Africa. Both teams failed to qualify for the main round.
Lahore Lions captain Mohammad Hafeez, who represented Kolkata Knights Riders in the inaugural IPL season, has said players from his country are missing out on a “great learning experience” by not being allowed to play in the IPL. It would be a tough challenge for skipper Hafeez to lead his team to the main round.
Lahore Lions begin their qualifying campaign against Mumbai Indians on September 13 before they take on Sri Lanka’s Southern Express and New Zealand’s Northern Districts in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Excited Hafeez said that his team had the firepower and the ability to handle pressure and make it to the main draw of the Champions League. “Our preparations as a team have not been ideal for such a big event due to heavy rain in Punjab, but we will try to give our 100 percent. We have six international players (Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema), all of whom have proven they can handle pressure of playing in a big event and in front of big crowds. And the other players are also battle-hardened and capable of winning matches on their own,” Hafeez said.
“It doesn’t matter if we have not been playing the Indian Premier League, but there is no doubt that the IPL is a platform where the players can get valuable experience of the short version of the game,” the skipper said in an interview.