Fast-rising Arshad Iqbal eyes national colours

Published February 23, 2021
Karachi Kings' Arshad Iqbal, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Quetta Gladiators' Azam Khan during a PSL match at National Stadium in Karachi, on Saturday. — AP/File
Karachi Kings' Arshad Iqbal, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Quetta Gladiators' Azam Khan during a PSL match at National Stadium in Karachi, on Saturday. — AP/File

KARACHI: Arshad Iqbal has been the most-improved fast bowler on the national circuit during the last 12 months, said legendary Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram ahead of the HBL PSL 6.

The 20-year-old from Swabi cannot get a better compliment from one of the best left-arm pacers the game has ever seen and has impressed the fast bowling legend with his work ethic and commitment.

Arshad says he is lucky to have Wasim in the dugout and credits his success to him. The presence of Mohammad Amir in the side has also benefited the right-armer.

“Wasim bhai and Amir bhai are great players,” said an unassuming Arshad on Monday. “Wasim bhai is a legend and I have seen his bowling videos on YouTube. Getting his advice is a treasure. I am learning and his words are morale boosting. While on the field, Amir bhai keeps telling me what to do.”

The fact that the ICC T20 World Cup will be played in India later this year adds further significance to the ongoing HBL PSL 6. Arshad has had a remarkable beginning as he claimed three wickets for 16 in four overs against Quetta Gladiators in the opening match on Saturday to help Kings script a solid seven-wicket win for his team and earn player-of-the-match award.

Arshad hopes that it is only the start of greater things while seeking eventual progression to the national colours.

“This [PSL] match has given me confidence,” the well-built pacer said. “I gained rhythm from the National T20 Cup, and it helped that the next assignment was HBL PSL 5 play-offs. I could not have asked for more.”

A claim to green shirt excites Arshad.

“That is the ultimate goal for everyone,” said Arshad on the prospect of a place in the Pakistan team.

“I am doing my best and whenever there is Allah’s will and selectors’ nod, I will get my chance. Every cricketer has a wish to play for the national team and I am not different.“My day will come,” the fast bowler remarked.

Arshad made his mark at the junior level at the 2018 ICC U-19 World Cup staged in New Zealand. He took six wickets in five matches, but was overshadowed by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the tournament.

On his first-class debut in October 2018, Arshad at a tender age of 17 impressed everybody taking five wickets for Wapda in a match against PTV at the Marghzar Cricket Ground in Islamabad. That performance got him drafted as an emerging player in the HBL PSL 5 player draft and during the season he made an instant impact by providing his team, Karachi Kings, crucial breakthroughs and putting a lid on the flow of runs.

He finished that PSL edition with nine wickets in seven matches.

“I was satisfied [with my performance in the last season] because everyone was praising my progress,” he said.

His economical spells played a crucial role in helping Khyber Pakhtunkhwa clinch the National T20 Cup as the pacer conceded a miserly 6.25 runs per over in the tournament and claimed four wickets.

Arshad played a pivotal role in helping Kings lift the glittering HBL PSL 5 trophy for the first time as he accounted for in-form Lahore Qalandars batsmen Ben Dunk and Samit Patel in the final staged at the National Stadium, Karachi in November 2020.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2021

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