KARACHI: The HBL-Pakistan Super League is a gift that keeps on giving. The super-hit franchise-based Twenty20 competition has given the national side a host of young and talented cricketers.
The likes of pacer Hasan Ali, spinner Shadab Khan, middle-order batsman Asif Ali and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf have consolidated their place in the Pakistan line-up after emerging from the PSL.
Most recently, Quetta Gladiators’ 18-year-old pacer Mohammad Hasnain was named in the Pakistan squad for the upcoming ODI series against Australia.
However, former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has other ideas.
The flamboyant Afridi believes the practice of bringing in young cricketers into the national side’s set-up based on their performances in the PSL, should be discouraged.
“I think we are rushing them [youngsters] into the national team set-up. Getting the Pakistan cap has been made too easy,” Afridi said during a press conference after his team Multan Sultans beat Lahore Qalandars by seven wickets in a PSL match here at the National Stadium on Monday.
The super star all-rounder urged the national selectors to consider more experienced players instead of freshly spotted talent with the World Cup set to be held in England this summer.
“We have many more experienced cricketers who have performed consistently in the first-class circuit and for Pakistan too,” said Afridi.
“Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz, for example, are good players. You can’t keep youngsters above them because the World Cup is approaching. Good talent should be put into academies and given chances in the ‘A’ team.”
Pakistan have rested six players for the Australia ODIs. All six form the core of the national side. The Australians, who have been in blistering form in their ongoing ODI series against India, will be therefore facing a weakened Pakistan side.
Afridi said the games against Australia should have been taken as an opportunity to give more practice to Pakistan’s important players ahead of the World Cup rather than resting them for the series.
“Resting six main players for the Australia series, I believe, is not a good decision,” said the former captain. “It would have been acceptable if Pakistan were playing a lower ranked side.
“Playing and performing against big sides gives players confidence and this opportunity should have been given to the main players. These players haven’t played 15-20 years of cricket, they are not that old.”
One of the rested Pakistan players is Sarfraz Ahmed, the team’s captain. There have been speculations that the wicket-keeper was rested against his own will.
“If the selection committee, coach and Sarfraz have made a mutual decision to rest the latter, then it is understandable. However, if Sarfraz has been dropped without his own consent then it is very surprising,” Afridi commented.
The 39-year-old praised Sarfraz and urged fans, everyone belonging to the cricketing fraternity and the media to fully support him as the national team’s leader for the all-important World Cup.
“The best thing about Sarfraz is that he enjoys his captaincy and tweaks his methods according to the team he is leading, whether it is the Quetta Gladiators or Pakistan. All Pakistanis should back him fully and Pakistan will hopefully win the World Cup,” said Afridi.
The Pakistan head coach ‘staying calm in the dressing room’ would also help increase the national side’s World Cup-winning prospects, according to Afridi.
“If Mickey [Arthur] stays calm in the dressing room then I think Pakistan will have a chance,” he said.
Afridi made it clear that Monday’s match for the Sultans was not his last outing as a cricketer and that he will be back in the ground for another PSL side if not the Multan outfit.
“It was a great experiencing playing for three teams [Peshawar Zalmi, Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans] and I am happy I got to represent three cities. But it’s not over yet. I’m not sure which team I’ll be playing next year but I’ll surely play,” said the fan-favourite cricketer.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2019