DUBAI: Quetta Gladiators were jolted by further pull-outs on Sunday when the franchise officially announced their leading run-getter in the 2018 HBL Pakistan Super League, Shane Watson, and paceman Ben Laughlin will not be travelling to Pakistan for the playoffs.
Watson, the 36-year-old Australian all-rounder, and Laughlin joined former England captain Kevin Pietersen and the current England limited-overs opener Jason Roy who had earlier pulled out of the Pakistan leg.
Quetta will surely miss these stars when it faces defending champions Peshawar Zalmi in Lahore in Tuesday’s first eliminator in Lahore.
Gladiators face full-strength Zalmi in Tuesday’s playoff
Watson is the third-highest scorer in PSL III with 319 runs in the 10 league-round matches while left-armer Laughlin bagged three wickets in as many games.
During one of the media conferences last week, Watson indicated his reluctance over touring Pakistan when he said: “I have to sit down with my family to be able to really work through what the right decision is for them and me. It is just not my decision. It is my mum’s and dad’s and wife’s as well. We will all sit down to discuss the options.”
Surprisingly, Watson also had kind words to say for Pakistan during the same briefing: “The best part of Pakistani culture is that they are wonderful people and love their cricket as much as I do. It is great to visit places where people share the same love for the sport.”
The Australian all-rounder also had sympathised with the fans watching the PSL action on TV. “I just cannot imagine how tough it would be, growing up, not being able to watch their idols play cricket in front of them.”
Roy, the 27-year-old South African-born right-hander, was a late arrival for the third edition from England’s ongoing tour of New Zealand and played in Quetta’s last two league-round fixtures in Sharjah earlier this week and scored 53 runs.
Quetta, who faced a major exodus during last year’s final in Lahore when all their first-choice overseas players refused to play in the Punjab metropolis, will however have the services of South African left-hander Rilee Rossouw who has agreed to participate in Tuesday’s encounter at the Gaddafi Stadium after receiving a briefing from Reg Dickason, the independent security consultant whom the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had engaged to oversee security-related arrangements in Lahore and Karachi.
Australia’s Chris Green, who came into the squad as a replacement for Afghanistan spinning wizard Rashid Khan — who is currently on national duty in the ICC World cup qualifying event in Zimbabwe — has given his availability to the team management although the 24-year-old, who was born in Durban, has yet to play a game in the PSL.
Quetta have signed up Sri Lankan all-rounder Thisara Perera, who was granted special permission to play for Sarfraz Ahmed-led side after being originally picked by Multan Sultans but did not play a single match for the newest franchise, as well as West Indies opener Johnson Charles and Tom-Kohler Cadmore, the 23-year-old right-handed batsman who plays for English county team Yorkshire.
Reacting to the development, Quetta franchise owner Nadeem Omar expressed his disappointment at Watson’s abrupt exit. “Shane Watson had earlier committed that he will travel to Pakistan [for the later stages of the PSL] but he backed out at the last minute,” he lamented
On the other hand, Peshawar will be at full-strength for the Quetta clash after their franchise owner Javed Afridi confirmed that all their foreign players barring Dwayne Smith would travel to Pakistan.
“As was the case last year, this year too our overseas players will travel to Pakistan for the playoffs,” Afridi posted on his Twitter account.
Smith, the West Indies batsman, has pulled out due to family reasons.
Karachi Kings and Islamabad United, who were playing in the qualifier for the final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium at the time of filing this report on Sunday night, would have nearly all of their foreign players available for the knockout matches in Pakistan.
Karachi confirmed on Saturday that barring England ODI and T20 skipper Eoin Morgan who has opted out of Pakistan tour due to family reasons, all other players including England’s Ravi Bopara, Joe Denly, Tymal Mills, West Indian Lendl Simmons and South African duo of Colin Ingram and David Wiese have consented to play in Lahore and Karachi (if they make the final).
According to sources close to the Islamabad franchise, Luke Ronchi, J.P. Duminy and Samit Patel have all agreed to make the tour as well. Also likely to visit Pakistan are the West Indies players Chadwick Walton and Samuel Badree.Ronchi, in particular, left no one in doubt as regards to playing in Pakistan. “If you ask me, the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes. I am going over there to play in front of passionate cricket supporters. That is the way it should be and as a professional cricketer I enjoy playing and PSL is very competitive in that sense,” the wicket-keeper/batsman remarked.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2018