Shoaib Malik has given the Lanka Premier League his seal of approval, a week into the tournament. Malik is the most experienced T20 player in the league, having now played 405 T20s, and is among the high-profile overseas players in the tournament. He has played in various T20 leagues around the world, including the Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League.
"Overall the tournament is going very nicely and I'm really enjoying it," Malik said. "I was talking to some other overseas players as well and they were praising the whole league. In these tough times the way the people who are involved in the league must be given credit. The first year is tough for any league. But if we support the league, I'm sure, the second year will be better and the third year will be the same. I think I was expecting more big names, but with their personal commitments, they are not there. Definitely from next year, they will also be the participants in the league."
The tournament is being played at Sooriyawewa stadium in its entirety, largely because that arrangement allowed the tournament organisers to more efficiently maintain a playing bubble. Players also had to undergo seven days of quarantine before the tournament, and many foreign players - including Malik - did not arrive in Sri Lanka early enough to train substantially with their teams ahead of the event.
"It wasn't easy to stay in the room on the quarantine days, but there are rules and regulations to follow - we have to respect them," Malik said. "Of course I wanted to practice before getting into the tournament, but I had no time to go through practice sessions and everything. It's not anybody's fault. We are all going through these tough times.
"But the quality of cricket in LPL is very good. From next year, I'm sure there will be more big names. We're also very limited in the sense of having to use one stadium and facility. Next year, Inshallah, we will come out of this Covid-19 thing and there will be more venues and a crowd at the ground, and the crowd will make things bigger."
Malik has been part of the Jaffna Stallions franchise - the only as-yet unbeaten side in the tournament. Captain Thisara Perera's batting has contributed significantly to their success so far, but Malik had praise for legspinning allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga, as well. Hasaranga has five wickets from three outings with the ball and has only gone at 4.41 runs an over from his 12 overs.
"We know Wanindu is a quality bowler. He's improving day by day. The best part is that it's not just about his bowling. If you ask him to go field in the hot spots, he would love to do that. He's a proper team man. It's not just about your own bowling - he's fielding as well as batting. I would say he's the complete allrounder.
"It's a lot easier when you know your management and the captain. We've found nice combinations for our team. The first wins are always important. The team is going in the right direction. Everyone is backing each other up."