Quetta and Peshawar will have a host of foreign players available for Sunday's Pakistan Super League final in violence-hit Lahore despite security fears having already scared off a host of international stars. Quetta Gladiators had already seen English trio Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright and Tymal Mills as well as South Africa's Rilee Rossouw and Nathan McCullum of New Zealand refuse to play in Pakistan.
But on Saturday, Quetta announced they had signed West Indian paceman Rayad Emrit, Bangladesh's Anamul Haque, 37-year-old South African Morne van wyk and Zimbabwe's Elton Chigumbura and Sean Ervine as replacements. "We have replacements for the final as well as former Pakistan paceman Aizaz Cheema (signed to cover for the injured Umar Gul)," said a team spokesman.
The 35-year-old Emrit has played just two one-day internationals for the West Indies while Haque has played four Tests and 30 one-day internationals for Bangladesh. Chigumbura and Ervine are regulars for Zimbabwe while van Wyk has played eight international T20s for South Africa making a best score of 114 not out.
Peshawar Zalmi announced four foreign players - skipper Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels of the West Indies as well as England's Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan will arrive in Lahore early Sunday morning. PSL chairman Najam Sethi last week told AFP that all foreign players were offered extra money to appear in the final.
"We have offered foreign players up to double the pro-rata per match for the final," Sethi said. The participation of the tournament's international stars had been in doubt after security fears increased following two deadly bomb blasts in Lahore last month which left 23 people dead and over 100 injured.
The Pakistan army and prime minister Nawaz Sharif have assured VIP-level security arrangements - normally reserved for state heads - for the teams. A capacity crowd of 25,000 is expected for Sunday's final which starts at 20:00 local time (1500GMT). As well as foreign players, the final will boast West Indian great Viv Richards who is a mentor for the Quetta team.
Former Australian batsman Dean Jones, who was the head coach of Islamabad United in the tournament, is in Lahore as TV commentator. Pakistan will deploy troops and bullet-proof buses for today's Pakistan Super League final, its biggest cricket match in years, after a wave of militant attacks prompted a host of foreign stars to pull out.
"Unprecedented" security involving thousands of troops and police will guard the sold-out game in Lahore - scene of a deadly 2009 assault on Sri Lanka's team which halted international cricket tours in the country. Fears of a fresh incident threaten to overshadow Sunday's final between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi, the culmination of a Twenty20 tournament which has otherwise been played in the United Arab Emirates.
The Super League, now in its second year, is Pakistan's answer to the glitzy Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash League, and provides much-needed income for Pakistani cricket after international teams stopped visiting. Sunday's game stands as a test as to whether Pakistan can again successfully host top-level cricket, and has also been held up as a symbol of defiance in the face of violence.
It will be the highest-level game in Pakistan since the 2009 assault, in which gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus outside Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, killing six people and wounding several players. Khalid Mehmood, a former PCB chairman, said the match is the first step in the long process of rehabilitating Pakistan as a venue for international cricket. However, negative perceptions will remain "if you need 7,000 cops to secure 25,000 attendees", said political commentator Fasi Zaka.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2017