KARACHI: Pakistan and Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfraz Ahmed on Friday said the Pakistan Super League has done wonders for the country’s cricket in its four seasons and predicted that the league’s impact will be tenfold once it gets relocated to Pakistan, hopefully by next year.

Talking to Dawn at the team hotel, Sarfraz who looked in fine fettle, said: “What PSL has done for Pakistan cricket is for everyone to see, giving us a bevy of talented players, improving our performance in limited overs as well as Test cricket and enhancing our fielding standards. But more than anything else, the league has revitalized the nation, creating a culture of harmony and sportsman spirit which is great to see.”

Sarfraz appeared convinced that once the PSL gets fully relocated to Pakistan, its impact will be tenfold. “With most of these eight matches in Karachi proving be extremely thrilling and high scoring, you can already see the ‘home’ impact. It is only natural that our players are faring so well on our pitches and in front of home crowds because they have been raised here,” observed Sarfraz.

‘Quetta Gladiators are gelling well for Sunday’s final’

“We have not had much international level cricket at home in the past ten years, but I am confident that when the PSL comes to Pakistan, you will see a tremendous improvement in our overall performances in all formats, both at home and abroad, and also in domestic cricket Inshallah.”

Speaking about Quetta Gladiators’ chances of lifting the trophy in Sunday’s final after being two time unlucky in the previous seasons, Sarfraz said his team has been gelling very well throughout PSL 4 and will definitely fire on all cylinders in the final to lift the trophy.

“It has been a complete teamwork for our team throughout this PSL season and that is why we have once again qualified for the final,” said the skipper. “If in batting Shane Watson has led the way due to his unbelievable form, he has received fantastic support from Umar Akmal, Rillee Russow and Ehsan Ali while Mohammad Nawaz has also played a couple of fine cameos in the lower order to get us home,” said Sarfraz.

“In bowling too, we have had superb spells first from Ghulam Mudassar and now from young Mohammad Hasnain while in spin both Nawaz and Fawad Ahmed have chipped in with useful wickets when most needed. So all in all our teamwork is paying off superbly,” said Sarfraz.

Sarfraz also emphasised that the Gladiators’ management comprising team owner Nadeem Omar, manager Azam Khan and coach Moin Khan believe in continuity and keeping faith with the players which has also resulted in team’s success. “Consistent selection policies and backing of players has been the hallmark of Quetta Gladiators’ success. Yes a couple of players do come and go under the trade window arrangement but that does not really disturb our equation and it is mainly due to this continuity that you see our team always putting up a fight in the ground.”

Commenting on injured Fawad’s chances of making the playing XI in Sunday’s final, he said: “It is premature to say anything at the moment as Fawad has undergone a short surgery and is recovering gradually. But he himself is quite hopeful and looking ahead to the big game.”

To a question whether the PSL’s performances have become the criterion for national team selection rather than stellar performances of players from domestic cricket who have been feeling somewhat snubbed by the league, Sarfraz dismissed the notion. “That is not true. Yes some fine youngsters have made it big through PSL alone but we have also seen Mohammad Abbas, Shan Masud and many others also playing the league.

“You have to understand that in PSL, it is all a show of the franchises, who they select and who they discard. But the Pakistan Cricket Board does not consider the PSL as the criterion for national team selections and the selectors always consider the domestic cricket experiences of players in finalizing the national teams, especially in Tests,” the skipper clarified.

Asked to comment on logic behind giving rest to six leading players for the all-important Australia ODI series commencing from March 22 in the UAE, Sarfraz argued that it will only benefit the team.

“Contrary to the notion that resting top players will harm the team, it will be beneficial for us because our players will get more confidence in tackling Australia on their own because they are a talented bunch indeed,” said Sarfraz.

“Those who have been rested have been a playing all formats for nearly four or five months. So a rest at this stage will do them world of good. Besides, this will be a great opportunity for the other players to put in their best, especially with the World Cup in mind, and that will bring out more competitive cricket from them.

“Also, there is still lot of cricket to be played before the World Cup including the England ODIs and a series of practice and warm-up games which will surely help all of us get in groove for the extravaganza.”

In the end, sarfraz prised young Hasnain for his pace and intelligent bowling and said he and coach Mickey Arthur intend to use his sparingly at this stage to make sure he does not burned out. “That is how we have utilised Shaheen Shah Afridi, not exposing him in every game, which has brough the best out of him and we intend to groom Hasnain in a similar way,” concluded Sarfraz.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2019