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DUBAI: Aaqib Javed, the former Pakistan Test fast bowler and Lahore Qalandars head coach, admitted here on Thursday while speaking exclusively to Dawn that Lahore Qalandars have immensely under-performed in the tournament so far. However, he was full of praise for the two youngsters - Agha Salman and Shaheen Shah Afridi.

“Saying that we have underperformed would be an understatement,” said Aaqib. “We could have done a lot better in the previous games and should have won.”

When asked why Lahore Qalandars have failed abjectly in the tournament despite the talent hunt programmes they had arranged all over the country throughout the year, Aaqib said: “Our talent hunt programme has got nothing to do with the Pakistan Super League.” “Qalandars could only play one player from the programme and that too in the emerging category,” he clarified.

“The aim of the talent hunt programme is to work at the grass-root level to contribute in a more meaningful way to Pakistan cricket,” he clarified.

“If you have followed our off-the-field activities, you may know that a lot of people had turned up to give the trials even in the remote areas and I think, at the end of the day, that is certainly a good thing for Pakistan cricket,” he added.

Despite the poor show by Qalandars, Aaqib sounded optimistic that the team was at least getting off to good starts with the bat. “If I were to pin point one good thing for Lahore Qalandars right now, it would be our explosive starts with the bat by the top order. Although, it is a shame that we haven’t capitalised on those starts in any game we have played so far,” he lamented.

Speaking about dashing young player Agha Salman, whom he labelled as the ‘next Fakhar Zaman’, Aaqib said: “The way Salman has played so far, I really hope and pray that he emerges as the next Fakhar Zaman after the PSL. I know it is too early to say this but if he does well in the next three four games, it will be a good thing eventually for Pakistan cricket team.”

As for young pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, Aaqib said he is the new pace sensation in Pakistan.

“He is extremely talented and I see him playing for Pakistan within the next two years,” he predicted. “He is a future star for Pakistan. His body is ideal for fast bowling, is quite tall and has good pace. Most importantly, he has a good wrist position while delivering the ball which is very important for all good fast bowlers,” he added.

But despite Aaqib’s assessment of the two youngsters, they have yet to live up to the expectations of the fans and their own team management. Salman has managed to accumulate just 84 runs in the four innings while Shaheen Afridi is yet to take a wicket in this third PSL edition.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018