QUETTA Gladiators’ players practise in the nets at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.—INP
QUETTA Gladiators’ players practise in the nets at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.—INP

RAWALPINDI: The conditions in the garrison town are on the cooler side and with the first six of the eight-match HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 schedule are all under lights at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, both Islamabad United and holders Quetta Gladiators warmed up for Thursday’s game one of the Rawalpindi leg with expectations of a full house here.

Despite the stadium being on considerably smaller compared to the other major cricketing centres, the participation of the buffs will be followed with the same intensity as the actual play in the middle after both National Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium failed to attract spectators to match the capacity of those iconic venues.

Former Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was quite vocal during the pre-match presser on Wednesday and kept on requesting the cricket diehards to make their way to the ground in maximum numbers.

“The PSL needs full houses to make the competition the most successful [T20] league anywhere across the globe,” the Islamabad spin-bowling coach said. “What is the point in staging matches here when people are not supportive enough to see the games live? We saw the stadiums in Karachi and Lahore were not filled up as they should have.

“There may be [valid] reasons behind those things like the fans having to bear hardships during matches. But here access [to the venue] is much flexible and easier and the people willing to come and enjoy must avail the opportunity coming their way during the coming days.”

Commenting on the playing conditions, Saeed conceded dew could be a nuisance for the sides bowling second in the night fixtures.

“Bowling second is a problematic issue which we may have to confront during the games under lights because the same thing happened in the game we played [Lahore Qalandars] in Lahore on Sunday. It was hard to control the slippery ball for Lahore [which lost by a solitary wicket]. That match itself was one of the best in PSL [history] that I had seen.”

A GENERAL view of the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday ahead of the Pakistan Super League match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star
A GENERAL view of the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday ahead of the Pakistan Super League match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star

These great adversaries are playing against each other exactly a week after the fifth edition got underway with a rather insipid ceremony in Karachi that is still finding space on different forums. The champions sealed a three-wicket win with nine balls to spare on that occasion with young Mohammad Hasnain — the highest wicket-taker in this tournament with seven victims — and Azam Khan playing lead roles.

Tymal Mills, the discarded England fast bowler who is the Gladiators’ overseas representative, expects the weather to suit the bowlers in Rawalpindi.

“It is much nicer than we encountered down in Karachi where it was hot in terms of weather conditions. But here it seems more English summer-like conditions. The temperatures are just perfect. I’m pretty sure the quick bowlers would use the conditions to their advantage,” the left-armer remarked. “Overall, I think the pace bowlers will be the key factor in the games under lights. But the batsmen too will enjoy the surface here.”

Saeed predicted high-scoring matches in Rawalpindi. “In my view, 170-plus will be par scores because the outfield here is quite fast from my [past] experience in the National T20 Cup at this venue.”

Meanwhile, several legends had a rare reunion of sort when Prime Minister Imran Khan invited Sir Vivian Richards and Greg Chappell — two of the greatest batsmen he bowled to during his playing days in the 1970s and 1980s — to the PM House on Wednesday.

Richards, who is an ex-West Indies captain, has been with Quetta as their mentor since the start of PSL in 2016, while former Australian captain Chappell is on a private visit. Shane Watson, the Gladiators opening batsman-cum-mentor, was also present during the momentous occasion.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020

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