LAHORE: The HBL Pakistan Super League is getting bigger and bigger with every passing year and with every edition.
Fittingly, the fourth edition will be biggest of all the past editions as it will have the spice of one of world's most destructive batsmen, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers - fondly referred to as AB.
Not only AB de Villiers' presence will add charm to the PSL, his sentiments on playing his part on the revival of international cricket in Pakistan will give a tremendous boost to the efforts of the Pakistan Cricket Board in convincing the teams and international players to return to the country where people are mad about the game.
"I am delighted to confirm that I will represent Lahore Qalandars in front of our home crowds on 9 and 10 March, during the HBL PSL 2019," de Villiers had said last month. "I am fully aware that cricket is like a second religion in Pakistan. I still remember the support and appreciation we received in 2007 (South Africa tour to Pakistan)."
"Furthermore, I feel I have a role to play in helping international cricket return to Pakistan. These have been some of the motivating factors for me to return to Lahore," he said adding, "I sympathise with the people of Pakistan because they have been cricket-starved for no fault of theirs, but I am optimistic that the days are not too far when international cricket will return to Pakistan and the stadia will once again be packed with crowds."
And, mind you, people have started to count the days when they could see one of the cleanest hitters in the game in their backyard.
AB playing in Pakistan will be one of the many charms of PSL 4 and Lahore's matches at home will be on an astronomical demand.
But, AB is not the only start attraction of the tournament.
We have Shane Watson, Andre Russell, Luke Ronchi, Dwayne Bravo, Rilee Rossouw, Fawad Ahmed, Daren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Liam Dawson, Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan, Dan Christian, Sikander Raza, Anoton Devicich, Brendon Taylor, Samit Patel and host of other international names lined up to entertain the crowds.
Some most exciting players on the Twenty20 horizons are also on show.
Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane, Australia’s Aaron Summers and exciting performers from England’s Twenty20 event, Laurie Evans, Philip Salt and Liam Livingstone will also add to the PSL charms. Evans was the top run-getter in England’s Twenty20 event while Summers hit 150kph speed in Australian summer matches and was part of Hobart Hurricane in the Big Bash 2018-19.
For our own national players this year's PSL is more important for the fact that its the World Cup year. Albeit, it's a slightly longer format (50-over) but head coach Mickey Arthur's announcement that a good performance in the PSL can get a player a ticket to the World Cup has added more charm for the players.
So, players like Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz - who have lost their places in the squad - should pull up their socks and give the PSL their best.
Also, some youngsters like opener Rizwan Hussain, Sameen Gul, Hassan Khan, Ammad Butt et al, have the chance of their lives to fulfill their dreams of playing for Pakistan through some good performances in this year's PSL.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani reiterated the objectives of the PSL.
"It is a fact that it provides a platform for our emerging players to perform and to get lauded. Its a great opportunity for them to play in a competitive environment and learn from some top international players," said Mani.
Also the fact that PSL has been the harbinger for the return of international cricket to Pakistan.
The second edition in 2017 saw the final played in Lahore, while last year three matches were held, including the final.
This year eight matches will be held - five in Karachi, including March 17 final - and three in Lahore.
"Our ultimate goal is to bring back international cricket to the country for which we have schedule eight PSL matches in Pakistan for the first time," Mani said.
Pakistan government under the legendary cricketer and inspiring captain Imran Khan has vowed to do all out efforts to bring full PSL back to Pakistan next year.
Who will win the PSL? Can anyone answer?
No, for the fact that Twenty20 cricket is highly unpredictable.
A good performance with the bat, a burst of wickets or a good fielding (like we saw in the first Twenty20 between Pakistan and South Africa when David Miller's four catches and two run-outs) can turn a game upside down.
So, everyone can have their guesses but the team which plays well on that particular day take the honours.
All six teams are well balanced, highly motivated and best prepared to take the 50,000 full-of- crystal trophy which is a representation of the Pakistani flag in all its sparkling beauty, with crystals one by one rising up as a dazzling green beam and shows off the majestic Shooting Star at the pinnacle.
From the most vibrant franchise Lahore Qalandars to the newest team Multan Sultans to the twice champions Islamabad United and one-time winners Peshawar Zalmi, to the most enthusiastic Karachi Kings to the unassuming twice runners-up Quetta Gladiators, every team promises tooth-to-nail fight for the honours.
Remember one-run wins (twice between Quetta and Peshawar in 2016 and 2017) and two Super Over finishes (both involving Lahore in 2018) left the spectators on the edges of their seats.
So, once again it is the time to gear up for another exciting season of PSL where a galaxy of stars will show their skills.
Its apt to say US rapper Pitbull will sing his famous 'get it started' and 'don't stop the party' chart busters at the opening ceremony on Thursday at 2000 Dubai time. Action will begin right after the opening ceremony when defending champions Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars will go toe to toe in the tournament opener.
Fixtures for Friday:Multan Sultans v Karachi Kings, Dubai (1430 Pakistan time) Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators, Dubai (2100 Pakistan time).