Sarfraz upbeat despite pull-outs, shows confidence in replacements

March 20, 2018

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LAHORE: Cricketers of Quetta Gladiators play football during a training session under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—M.Arif/White Star
LAHORE: Cricketers of Quetta Gladiators play football during a training session under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—M.Arif/White Star

LAHORE: Quetta Gladiators’ captain Sarfraz Ahmed, whose beleaguered side face defending champions Peshawar Zalmi here at the Gaddafi Stadium in the first eliminator of the third HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) on Tuesday night, on Monday suggested that from the next season onwards, no such cricketers should be signed by teams who fail to honour their commitments or refuse to play PSL matches in Pakistan.

Addressing a crowded pre-match press conference here on Monday, Sarfraz, when asked why the Gladiators could not bring in its foreign stars for Pakistan leg of PSL while the other teams did, said: “We can’t bring anyone forcibly. What can we do when someone skips a tour after committing. But I wish in the future, no such players are selected who are not available for the entire PSL.”

The Gladiators, the runners-up of the last two editions of the PSL, will not have the services of experienced Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, dashing English batsman Kevin Pietersen and his countryman Jason Roy as well as left-armer Ben Laughlin.

However, the players who have agreed to accompany the Quetta side to Lahore include Rilee Rossouw, Mahmudullah, Chris Green, Thisara Perera, Johnson Charles and Tom Kohler Cadmore.

Zalmi will make the final for a second time, assures Hafeez

Sarfraz, to a question, dispelled the impression that some of its foreigner players had deceived the Gladiators but clairified that they were feeling pressure from their respective families and foreign offices. “Both Watson and Laughlin had earlier committed that they would go to Pakistan for the play-offs, but had to withdraw due to external pressures.”

To a question, Sarfraz admitted that though the replacements of the missing cricketers were not as famous, they would come up to the expectations to earn the required results.

He also pinned a lot of hopes on local players to fire on all cylinders in the playoff and claimed that under the local conditions his teammates could do wonders and he was expecting a great show from them.

“Yes we had lost the final to Zalmi at the Gaddafi Stadium last year, but we have some plans for them this time and will not repeat the mistakes of the past and we will try our best to grab the opportunities to win it,” said Sarfraz who is also captain of Pakistan in all three formats.

Sarfraz admitted that the current edition of the PSL was the most competitive of all three and quality bowling was seen throughout the tournament which is not the case in other T20 leagues.

“It has been hard for the batsmen to hit freely, Kamran Akmal and Luke Ronchi being exceptions, because the bowlers held sway over them,” he said.

He admitted the performance of his team was a mixture of bad and good and hopefully the team would get the required momentum to win all the remaining matches.

To a query as to why he batted so low in the batting order, Sarfraz contended that he always comes to bat according to the situation and also defended his own performance of scoring just 188 runs in ten matches of the PSL.

On the other hand, senior batsman Mohammad Hafeez turned up to address the press conference in place of his captain Darren Sammy.

About Tuesday’s match, Hafeez said the morale of his team was high because it has qualified for the eliminators after overcoming several challenges.

“In the last two matches, Zalmi faced must-win situation and came out winner, tackling the pressure well. Now we will do our best in the eliminators round,” said Hafeez. He was optimistic about a better show from his team and added that Zalmis are well prepared to win back to back matches and book a place in the final for the second time.

Hafeez expressed hope that dashing batsman Kamran Akmal, the top scorer of the PSL-III, would continue with his magnificent form after having recovered from his fitness problems.

Asked how much his team had suffered due to restrictions on his own bowling and due to the absence of key all-rounder Shahid Afridi who has now joined Karachi Kings for the third edition, Hafeez admitted that his team did face some difficulties initially but overcame them with time.

“Our team management did good planning to bring out the best from our players. I did miss bowling in the matches but that did not really dent our chances,” said the all-rounder, nicknamed ‘Professor’ by his team-mates.

“As for Afridi, I believe it does not make a big difference because players come and go. But in the past Afridi made a good contribution for Zalmi. But now we have proved that we have recovered from his absence.”

Asked to comment on poor standard of the umpiring, Hafeez said umpires were also human beings and had not done any mistake intentionally. However, he admitted that since the DRS will not be not available for the matches in Pakistan, it would have some impact on the decisions.

He said with the help of DRS, several wrong decisions of the umpires had been rectified and that was good for all the teams.

Responding to a question, he said though captain Sammy was not fully fit, he is a fighter and would be available for the game.

The weather in Lahore is good and the pitch prepared for the match looks like a fine batting strip.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2018