KARACHI: Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim has claimed his side will be ready to stop the hard-hitting Lahore Qalandars batsman Ben Dunk from replicating the knock he played some days ago when the traditional rivals clash in their return fixture of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 here at the National Stadium on Thursday.
Addressing the pre-match media conference on the sidelines of Karachi Kings’ practice session under lights on Wednesday, Imad said his team has no fear for the Australian left-hander who thrashed a record 12 sixes in a buccaneering 40-ball 99 not out to enable Lahore Qalandars comfortably chase down a 188-run target with five balls and eight wickets to spare in Lahore last Sunday.
“Credit to Ben the way he played to take the game away from us, and someone plays an innings such as that there’s nothing the fielding side can do,” Imad said. “We were also handicapped by the injury to Aamir Yamin early during Lahore’s innings because that left us with one specialist bowler short.
“But having said that Lahore Qalandars played very well there [in Lahore] to win against and are certainly on a roll with the momentum also on their side [winning three matches on the trot] at this critical juncture as the tournament reaches the business end with teams aiming to finish among the top four.
“Playing here in front of home crowd in final three matches [of the league phase] is a blessing because our team will play as hard as it can to win them all and the support [from the home fans] will spur every player in our side. Our primary objective will be to break the Lahore’s momentum,” the Karachi Kings skipper went on.
After taking on Lahore Qalandars, Karachi Kings face a double-header at the weekend when they play Islamabad United on Saturday and then meet the holders Quetta Gladiators in the last match of the league stage.
“The challenge ahead of us is huge and we have to play our best cricket to win because all the teams are very good and extremely competitive and any of them can beat anyone on the given day.
“Our preparations at the backend [of the competition] have to be spot on because there is no way one can afford to be complacent. The momentum is the main ingredient of performing better than other teams. Lahore Qalandars are certainly on a roll and it is not just the Dunk factor which helping them.
“The other night Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn came to the party for them with match-winning contributions against Peshawar Zalmi. So basically one cannot that they [Lahore Qalandars] are relying on one particular individual.
“Probably you might say we’ve to look at our team and gauge the strengths and weaknesses. Try to minimize the weak links and make maximum use of the strong points at our disposal,” Imad emphasized.
The all-rounder also minced no words in saying the absence of Aamir Yamin — who has been since replaced in the squad by left-arm seamer Waqas Maqsood — through injury has robbed Karachi Kings of a key member of the bowling attack.
“The untimely injury to Aamir [who is sidelined by a hamstring injury after bowling 1.1 overs against Lahore Qalandars last Sunday] was a big blow for us because he’s someone regarded as a fine all-rounder. We get to see him bat in this PSL but Aamir is capable of providing quick runs since he hits the ball long way. He is a very good all-rounder who unfortunately now won’t be part of our team,” Imad said of the 29-year-old from Multan who had represented Pakistan in four One-day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals between 2015 and 2018.
The Karachi Kings hoped Sharjeel Khan, the left-handed opener who has yet to play a major knock since returning from the spot-fixing ban, will find his bearings in the forthcoming matches after scores of 19, 6, 16, 38, 4 and 5 in the previous games of PSL V.
“Look as the captain I’ve no issues with Sharjeel despite those low scores. But he’s definitely a match-winner who I’m sure will get big runs. The entire team is backing him to come good at any moment and who knows tomorrow [Thursday] might be his day,” Imad said of the 30-year-old left-handed Hyderabad-born opener. “He’d already made impact during an 180-odd chase  against Islamabad United in Rawalpindi with a blistering innings [38 off 20 balls] that eventually set up the victory.”
While Lahore Qalandars are occupying the third slot in the six-team standings with eight points from as many fixtures, Karachi Kings are fifth with the crucial advantage of an extra game in hand while being only a point behind their latest rivals, who also lag behind on the head-to-head count which Karachi Kings lead with five victories from nine matches, while losing three with one game tied.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020