LAHORE: The much-anticipated eighth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) rolls into action when Multan Sultans face Lahore Qalandars in a high-octane opener at Multan Stadium in Multan on Monday (today). The tournament opener will begin at 20:00 with the toss at 19:30. Before the opening contest, the Pakistan Cricket Board, in a continuation of its tradition, has lined up a glittering opening ceremony. The cricket fans in Multan and all around the world will see spectacular performances by different artists. Multan Sultans won the 2021 edition while Lahore Qalandars are the defending champions. PSL-8 matches will also be held in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. Karachi’s National Bank Cricket Arena will play host to the second match of the tournament when Karachi Kings lock horns with Peshawar Zalmi. Quetta Gladiators begin their campaign in Multan on February 15 and Islamabad United play their first match of the season on February 16 in Karachi. From February 26, Lahore and Rawalpindi will host the latter part of the tournament. Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, will host the four playoffs and the final, besides five league stage games and Rawalpindi will stage 11 matches. The winners of the March 19 final at Gaddafi Stadium will not only lift the Supernova Trophy but will also collect a cheque for Rs.120m, while the runners-up will receive a cheque for Rs.48m. Starting the PSL in 2016 was the most extraordinary moment for Pakistan cricket since the country was exiled from the international game. The PCB has not only shown the world what it is capable of but also brought smiles back on the faces of Pakistanis around the globe. Pakistan were forced to play designated ‘home’ matches primarily in the UAE since 2009 when the Sri Lankan team were ambushed by militants while travelling from their hotel to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for a Test match. The attack killed six policemen and a van driver while some players and a local umpire were wounded. The first edition of the PSL did not boast the glamour of the Indian Premier League or that of the Big Bash of Australia, or the history of England’s T20 competition, but it was no less significant. Over the years, the PSL has emerged as a lifeline for Pakistan cricket. The first four PSL editions — 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 — were held in UAE while the 2020, 2021 and 2022 editions were entirely shifted back to Pakistan with security improving in the country. The idea of Pakistan’s own T20 league emerged during the regime of Dr Nasim Ashraf, who served as the chairman of the PCB between 2007 and 2008. The league was mainly inspired from the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL), and the successful Indian Premier League (IPL). However, the idea never materialised. The next chairman, Ijaz Butt, pulled out every hefty project from the system and shelved it. But a year later, the following chairman, Zaka Ashraf, revived the project by announcing a lucrative business model. However, Zaka also failed to materialise it. It took Najam Sethi nearly five months to blow life into the project. With PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan taking a backseat, the project was left exclusively to Sethi. Despite harsh criticism and hurdles, Sethi was able to deliver the biggest and most exciting product in Pakistan’s history. He laid the foundation of the PSL. Since 2016, the PSL is running successfully with six franchises: Lahore Qalandars, Karachi Kings, Multan Sultans, Peshawar Zalmi, Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators. It is interesting to note that the PSL was conceived with the idea of providing platform to the young and emerging cricketers who can have a flavour of international cricket — by playing high quality cricket under pressure environment — before graduating to the apex level. The league continues to deliver on that front as many players who shone in the PSL went on to play international cricket. In a few years after the introduction of the league, Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy and emerged as one of the most successful and consistent T20 sides. Previous winners: All six franchises have won the PSL title at least once, which underscores the quality of all six sides and the higher level of competition in the tournament. Islamabad United, the inaugural champions, are the only side to win the PSL title twice (the second time in 2018). Peshawar Zalmi won the 2017 edition. Quetta Gladiators, who were the finalists in the first two editions, won the 2019 competition. Karachi Kings were the first side to win to lift the trophy at their home when they rolled over Lahore Qalandars in Karachi in 2020. Multan Sultans bagged their maiden title in 2021. Last year, Lahore Qalandars lifted the PSL trophy in Lahore. Schedule of matches: (Afternoon matches will start at 2:00 pm; evening matches in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi will start at 7:00 pm. Evening matches in Multan will begin at 6:00 pm except for the tournament opener, which will commence at 8:00 pm) Feb 13- Multan Sultans v Lahore Qalandars, Multan Cricket Stadium Feb 14 – Karachi Kings v Peshawar Zalmi, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 15 – Multan Sultans v Quetta Gladiators, Multan Cricket Stadium Feb 16 – Karachi Kings v Islamabad United, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 17 – Multan Sultans v Peshawar Zalmi, Multan Cricket Stadium Feb 18 – Karachi Kings v Quetta Gladiators, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 19 – Multan Sultans v Islamabad United, Multan Cricket Stadium; Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 20 – Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 21 – Quetta Gladiators v Lahore Qalandars, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 22 – Multan Sultans v Karachi Kings, Multan Cricket Stadium Feb 23 – Peshawar Zalmi v Islamabad United, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 24 – Quetta Gladiators v Islamabad United, National Bank Cricket Arena Feb 26 – Karachi Kings v Multan Sultans, National Bank Cricket Arena; Lahore Qalandars v Peshawar Zalmi, Gaddafi Stadium Feb 27 – Lahore Qalandars v Islamabad United, Gaddafi Stadium Mar 1 – Peshawar Zalmi v Karachi Kings, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 2 – Lahore Qalandars v Quetta Gladiators, Gaddafi Stadium Mar 3 – Islamabad United v Karachi Kings, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 4- Lahore Qalandars v Multan Sultans, Gaddafi Stadium Mar 5 – Islamabad United v Quetta Gladiators, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 6 – Quetta Gladiators v Karachi Kings, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 7 – Peshawar Zalmi v Lahore Qalandars, Pindi Cricket Stadium; Islamabad United v Multan Sultans, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 8 – Pakistan Women’s League Exhibition Match 1, Pindi Cricket Stadium; Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 9– Islamabad United v Lahore Qalandars, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 10 – Pakistan Women’s League Exhibition Match 2, Pindi Cricket Stadium; Peshawar Zalmi v Multan Sultans, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 11 – Pakistan Women’s League Exhibition Match 3, Pindi Cricket Stadium; Quetta Gladiators v Multan Sultans, Pindi Cricket Stadium Mar 12 — Islamabad United v Peshawar Zalmi, Pindi Cricket Stadium; Lahore Qalandars v Karachi Kings, Gaddafi Stadium Mar 15 — Qualifier (1 v 2), Gaddafi Stadium Mar 16 – Eliminator 1 (3 v 4), Gaddafi Stadium Mar 17 — Eliminator 2 (loser Qualifier v winner Eliminator 1), Gaddafi Stadium Mar 19 – Final, Gaddafi Stadium.