KARACHI: Sarfaraz Ahmed expects Quetta Gladiators to redeem themselves in the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 in Abu Dhabi after the 2019 champions plummeted to the base of the table when the Karachi leg of the competition was abruptly halted in early March.
Addressing a virtual media conference on Thursday, the Quetta captain admitted his team face an uphill battle to make the playoffs after winning just one game at the National Stadium — the very last fixture against Multan Sultans by 22 runs to break the trend of teams winning while chasing in the opening 13 matches.
“Yes we had a horrendous run in Karachi when our game plan went haywire, particularly our fielding. That is surely one area we’ve been working on diligently,” Sarfaraz said ahead of Friday’s clash against Islamabad United at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. “Obviously we are in a do-or-die situation and our prime objective coming into this leg is to show drastic improvement in all departments. There are no options left [for us] but to play good cricket consistently in the hope of making the playoffs.
“In fact, I view this [predicament] as a great opportunity to bounce back in the tournament despite having experienced a bad run in Karachi.”
Sarfaraz, who was among the last group of players to be granted visa very close to the start of the competition and had to spend seven days in isolation upon arrival in the UAE, pointed out the playing conditions further offer a new challenge.
“No doubt the conditions here [in Abu Dhabi]are going to be tough and challenging. In view total in the vicinity of 160-170 seems a winning one and as we saw how the game panned on Wednesday where Lahore [Qalandars] had to fight until the very last ball for victory [while chasing 144 against Islamabad United],” the former Pakistan skipper remarked. “All said, we have the ability to win despite the toss now becoming a key ingredient going forward, especially in the night fixtures. Personally, I would like to carry on the good [batting] form from the Karachi phase, even though I had to spend time in the quarantine and only had just a couple of net sessions.”
Sarfaraz’s Peshawar Zalmi counterpart Wahab Riaz, meanwhile, played down the oppressive weather in Abu Dhabi would create major hurdles for the players. “To be honest we are used to such hot and humid weather in Pakistan where we play cricket during the peak months of summer. The main worry is how the playing surface would behave. Generally speaking, pitches in the UAE are traditionally slow with low bounce, allowing spinners fair turn and also help seamers skid the ball under lights,” Wahab told reporters on the eve of Peshawar Zalmi’s encounter against Lahore Qalandars late on Thursday night. “Judging by Wednesday’s game, I would say batting second will be in an advantageous position because there will be dew coming into play and tonight the game starts at 10:00 [UAE time], it could make a big difference whoever bats last.”
FAHEEM BLOW FOR UNITED
In the meantime, Islamabad United suffered a crippling blow when it was announced on Thursday their star all-rounder Faheem Ashraf is in serious doubt of missing at least three matches after splitting the webbing between his thumb and index finger in his left hand while fielding against Lahore Qalandars.
Faheem — a vital cog in the Pakistan team across all formats in recent series and who was United’s top scorer with 27 — was required to come off the field to have five stitches on the injured hand after having bowled two overs. He later returned to complete his four-over quota, while initially not being granted permission to bowl since he had gone off for medical attention. But umpires and the match referee not only allowed him to bowl remaining two overs while classifying the nature of injury as an extraordinary circumstance, but also let the all-rounder go off the field in between his overs since he was not fit enough to field.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021