LAHORE: The much-anticipated HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 will kick-off from tomorrow, Thursday, with the first ball of the tournament scheduled to be bowled at 9pm. At the opening match of the tournament, Quetta Gladiators will begin their title defense by taking on two-time champions Islamabad United at Karachi’s National Stadium. On Friday, Karachi Kings will host Peshawar Zalmi at the National Stadium, while, in Lahore, at the Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, Lahore Qalandars will take on Multan Sultans. The cricket-crazy nation will be served with thrilling encounters all over the country as all six captains aim for berths in the 22 March final at the Gaddafi Stadium, for a shot at the US $500,000, the winning prize money, and the brand new glittering trophy. To date, Quetta Gladiators have been the most successful franchise with 61.90 win percentage. The next on the list are Peshawar Zalmi, the champions of the 2017 edition, with 58.69 win percentage. Islamabad United, the champions of the inaugural and 2018 editions, have the third best win percentage with 57.95 and are the only team with two HBL PSL titles. Karachi Kings’ win percentage of 42.86 is the best amongst the three franchises, who have lost more matches than they have won. Lahore Qalandars (30.55%) and Multan Sultans (36.84%), who entered the HBL PSL in its third edition in 2018, are the only two teams to have not made it beyond the group-stage till now and they will be hoping that this season brings a change in their fortunes. This fifth edition of the HBL PSL marks the biggest spectacle of cricket in the country since the 2008 Asia Cup as Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi will host the tournament, which goes down as the first instance of an entire edition of the HBL PSL being held in its own country. With the long wait for this moment about to end, the fans are eager to welcome their own HBL PSL by filling the stadiums to their capacities and the same excitement is found amongst the captains, who are looking forward to lead their franchises on Pakistani soil. Three franchises will take the field with new captains this season after Pakistan internationals Shadab Khan and Shan Masood and hard-hitting batsman Sohail Akhtar were named captains of Islamabad United, Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars, respectively, while Imad Wasim (Karachi Kings), Darren Sammy (Peshawar Zalmi) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (Quetta Gladiators) will continue in their roles. Shadab Khan, the Islamabad United captain, said on Wednesday : “Our preparations are excellent for this edition. We have had a camp in Islamabad with the Pakistan players and now we are gearing up for the tournament with all of our players in Karachi. “We have a great balance in our side right from the beginning of the HBL PSL with top Pakistan players forming the core of the team, which gives us room to rely on both our batting and bowling departments to win us matches. “I am extremely excited for this edition as I am about to captain a franchise which has won the HBL PSL title twice and that also in front of my own people. I have never played a HBL PSL match in my hometown, Rawalpindi, so it is going to be a great experience to play there.” Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim said: “I am expecting housefuls in all of the games as we are playing at our home and it should be a lot of fun. “We are ready and I believe we have a side which will do well in this edition. We are a balanced side which can deliver in whichever situation we will find ourselves in. “For me it is a great honour to be leading Karachi Kings and I look forward to leading the Kings in front of home crowds. We look forward to the love and support all across Pakistan.” Lahore Qalandars captain Sohail Akhtar said: “I feel very blessed and honoured that I will be leading Lahore Qalandars in an edition, which is being held on the Pakistani soil. “We have put together a perfect blend of senior players and those who have come out of our player development programme. Our preparations had begun for this season three months ago at our high performance centre. “There’s a lot of excitement amongst the players to be playing in Lahore in their home conditions and we all are very hopeful that because of it this season will be very different from the last four. “Though we have match-winners in both batting and bowling departments, I am very confident about our bowling this time around and I feel it is the best in the HBL PSL.” Shan Masood, the captain of Multan Sultans, said: “We have been preparing very well. We have played scenario-based matches and practiced under lights as our first two matches are at night. Our match against the MCC will give us match practice and we will get to know our ideal combination. For our first match on 21 February we are Tayyar Hain! “The most refreshing thing for me as a captain is that I have a very-well balanced side. We have fast bowlers and in the spinners we have a leg-spinner, a left-arm orthodox and an off-spinner. And, in batting we have flexible players who can switch on in any situation. If one of our departments is struggling, the other can come to its rescue. “I am very happy that all the matches are being held in Pakistan and what gives me immense pleasure is the fact that the cities other than Lahore and Karachi are also hosting these matches. We are really excited to play our three matches in Multan. “It is an honour and a challenge, to which I am looking forward to, for me to be leading my side in Pakistan. The conditions here in Pakistan support both batting and bowling. We will have high scores and more and more involvement of the fans with them coming to the stadiums and filling the stands. All over the world, players at home have better records than they have away and we had been missing that.” Darren Sammy, the Peshawar Zalmi captain, said: “Peshawar Zalmi have been very consistent in the HBL PSL. We have always prepared hard for every edition and this time is no different. Guys have been working really hard on their skills and I can’t wait to see them execute it in the games. Playing with passion and never say die attitude has been the mantra of Zalmi. “I always say batsmen win you matches, but bowlers win you tournaments. With the caliber of good pitches here in Pakistan the best bowling side will win the tournament. “It is always a pleasure to lead Peshawar Zalmi. From the very first season we have developed that bond which makes us a family and makes us play for each other and it is always easier to be leading the team with the presence of experienced guys like Wahab [Riaz], Hasan [Ali], Kamran [Akmal] and [Shoaib] Malik who pass on the knowledge to the youngsters. “This edition already has a different feeling to it as the entire tournament is being held in Pakistan. It is a massive step forward from making the time when the final of the 2017 edition was held in Lahore. It is an amazing feeling to see how quickly the people of Pakistan have gotten a chance to watch an entire tournament in their country.” Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain of the defending champions Quetta Gladiators, said: “The preparations have been going really well for us both in terms of training and the team-related activities. Every player is eager to contribute in the success of Quetta Gladiators. “I’m really lucky that Quetta Gladiators squad is full of match winners both in batting and bowling departments and it is nice to have such a strong side. “It would be really amazing to lead Quetta Gladiators in Pakistan because we can expect full house in each and every match and the atmosphere would be something which we haven’t experienced ever before with fanfare there for more than a month-long period. “With the full edition of HBL PSL being played in Pakistan, it will inspire the whole generation to take up the game of cricket in their career as they will see stars playing in front of them.” The opening match of the tournament will be preceded by a richly entertaining opening ceremony, which will begin at 6.45pm.