LAHORE: While acknowledging the brilliant run of form with the bat demonstrated by Kamran Akmal in the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL), Pakistan’s national team head coach Mickey Arthur on Thursday stuck to his approach of concentrating on youngsters for future international competitions.

“Kamran is a good cricketer but my focus is on young performers,” Arthur said at the press conference after his Karachi Kings team lost the eliminator to Peshawar Zalmi by 13 runs here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday night.

“At international level every cricketer has to perform in all three formats of the game,” added Arthur, perhaps signalling indirectly that Kamran is not that reliable with the gloves.

Right-handed Kamran’s superb 77 runs off 27 balls — studded with eight forceful sixes and five fours — was the main reason Zalmi subdued Kings. The stocky right hander, the highest run-scorer in the ongoing PSL during which the belligerent batsman struck a whirlwind century (107 not out against Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah), has plundered 424 runs so far.

When 36-year-old Kamran came to address the press conference soon after Arthur, he received a barrage of questions about his brilliant batting in the PSL and yet not finding a place in the national team. However, a calm-looking Kamran said he was not upset at not being picked for national duty.

“No problem if I am not playing for Pakistan. I am enjoying my cricket and no one can stop me from playing cricket [in domestic cricket],” said Kamran at the presser.

“My performance [in domestic cricket and PSL] is an evidence that I am not disappointed [to continue the effort] to stage a comeback [to national team].”

Besides amassing runs in the ongoing PSL, Kamran totalled 432 runs (average 61.71) in the National T20 Cup, 532 (66.50) in the National One-day Cup for Departments and 418 (32.15) in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy first-class event during the last domestic season but has failed to impress national selectors.

Meanwhile commenting on the eliminator, Arthur said Karachi Kings’ bowlers had conceded some 20 runs more allowing Zalmi to reach a mammoth 170-7 in the rain-curtailed 16-overs-a-side match.

The South Africa-born coach however defended his batsmen Babar Azam and Joe Denly — both of whom returned unbeaten — when asked the duo, despite having stayed at the wicket for a long time and with nine wickets intact, could not lift the scoring rate.

“It is not fair [to blame the duo for the loss]. In fact, they tried their best and kept a good strike rate. But we could not overcome the 20-run difference in the end,” he conceded.

In fact, Arthur recalled, one over from Kings’ pacer Usman Shinwari costing 25 runs had changed the game situation allowing Kamran to come into his rhythm.

The coach further said the scenario could have been different had his team been playing with their two frontline spinners — Shahid Afridi and Imad Wasim — who were not available for the eliminator on fitness grounds.

The absence of Imad and Afridi forced the Kings to install fast bowler Mohammad Amir as captain, who conceded just 16 runs from his four overs in Wednesday’s match where almost every other bowler was mauled by Kamran and company.

Answering a question, Arthur said Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Salman Agha and Shaheen Afridi were talented cricketers emerged in the PSL who could be groomed for future.

Kamran, at his press conference, said Peshawar Zalmi’s success in the PSL was a result of teamwork, for which he emphasised the credit also went to the franchise owner Javed Afridi.

The wicket-keeper/batsman also praised his captain Darren Sammy, who he said really lifted the team with his wisdom and cricketing experience.

About the PSL final, Kamran said there were good batting pitches in Karachi, adding he would try to continue to perform impressively for his team’s victory.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018