KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz and his Lahore Qalandars counterpart Sohail Akhtar said on Tuesday the decision to allow crowds during the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 would motivate the competing teams when the tournament begins later this week.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) gave the green signal two weeks ago following a request from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to have partial participation of fans during upcoming edition and the NCOC agreed to let 20 percent fans inside the ground at every HBL PSL 6 fixture.
The NCOC’s approval means 7,500 ticketholders would be allowed to enter Karachi’s National Stadium on each match day, while 5,500 paying spectators will be in attendance per day during the fixtures at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Sohail, while addressing a virtual media conference, was candid in stating that playing in empty stadiums during the backend of HBL PSL V was a traumatic experience but this year even the presence of 20 percent of spectators during matches would be welcomed with open arms.
“We are so happy to learn that our fans would be coming to the ground and support the players. All of us are eagerly looking forward to welcome the fans because playing without them is unthinkable,” Sohail said.
Wahab echoed Sohail’s words but cautioned the fans to strictly observe the Covid-19 protocols. “Obviously, the fans should look after themselves at all times and when they turn up at the ground they should follow the SOPs by all means for their own good. But it would be wonderful to see them back in the stands. Their presence, even in limited numbers, will certainly inspire the players.”
Speaking about his team’s prospects in the upcoming event, Wahab claimed Peshawar Zalmi would not be repeating their lacklustre performance of last year after they finished fourth in the standings and were subsequently eliminated at the first hurdle during the playoffs.
“We were definitely not up to the mark as a team and that happened because we failed to click as a unit. Mind you cricket is not an individual sport but a team game where participation of every member in the squad counts. There were certain areas where we struggled, whether it was batting or bowling,” Wahab remarked.
“Apart from several outstanding individual performances, Peshawar Zalmi were lacking as a team last time. Our preparations so far have gone pretty well with [head coach] Darren [Sammy] paying special attention to the team’s shortcomings.
“This year our main aim has been to find the right formula and the focus is on the team combination, which is the essential part for success in any team sport,” Wahab went on. “Moreover, we have defined roles for the players and told them what exactly we want and this has been done now so that once the tournament starts no one should remain in the dark.”
Sohail, meanwhile, was optimistic that Lahore Qalandars should take inspiration from HBL PSL V in which they reached the final after making it to the playoffs for the first time after finishing last in the opening four editions.
“We gained lot of confidence from our performance last year and particularly the way our bowling unit performed,” Sohail pointed out.
“There is no doubt that Lahore Qalandars probably has the best bowling line-up in the world when it comes to T20 cricket and if you look at the 2020 statistics the top three wicket-takers [Haris Rauf, Rashid Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi] in this format are in our current squad.
“We all know Rashid is a class act and the main reason of picking him is that we had been lacking in our spinning department and his presence has obviously given a huge boost to our bowling.
“There were couple of grey areas as regards our batting and team planning last year. In the build-up to the forthcoming event, we have been working on those fronts to get rid of the weaknesses. Our preparations so far have been great and the best thing is that both our bowlers and batsmen have being doing well and are keen to carry forward their good form,” Sohail added.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021