Pride and passion — The Peshawar Zalmi story

Peshawar were the most popular side of the PSL. But Zalmi's story was not just about cricket.
Published March 1, 2016

Darren Sammy cut a forlorn figure as he trudged back to the dugout after propelling Peshawar Zalmi to the brink of a comeback win against Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 1st Qualifying Final.

The West Indies Twenty20 captain shook his head in disbelief and preferred to position himself as far away from his teammates as he could. Sammy needed the moment to admonish himself; he had let himself down but more importantly he had failed Peshawar.

Sammy's passion for his team was surprising considering the fact the squad had trained together for barely a week before the PSL started. But for those who had been inside the Zalmi camp, the all-rounder's emotions were not unexpected; this was more than a cricket team; it represented something bigger.

The franchise was undisputedly the most popular side of Pakistan’s inaugural T20 league and boasted the leadership of the country’s biggest cricket star, Shahid Afridi.

The flamboyant all-rounder along with his star-studded company stumbled at the last hurdle, losing in the 3rd Qualifying Final to Islamabad United, who went on to win the title. But Zalmi had already made a strong impact in Pakistan with their success which transcended the sport.

Since the sale of the PSL franchises, Javed Afridi, the owner of Peshawar Zalmi, was prepared to use the opportunity to give to his 'homeland' much more than the happiness of winning matches or tournaments.

“They are ambassadors of our frontiers, exponents of our sportsman spirit that lies in the hearts of every Pakistani,” said Javed about the people of the KPK province during Peshawar Zalmi’s logo launch back in December.

The logo, in the shape of a turban worn by the Pashtuns in the western frontiers of Pakistan, is in three shades – blue, yellow and white – signifying pride of the region, the skies and the energy of the people.

Zalmi recruited seasoned T20 cricketers from around the world known for the flair. Sammy and Australia's express paceman Shaun Tait and England's Jonny Bairstow combined with the dynamite duo of Mohammad Asghar and Hassan Ali, who became overnight stars.

Zalmi, the documentary, goes behind the scenes to highlight the significance of the Peshawar team to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, its values and how the squad was built.