KARACHI: Andy Flower is generally a phlegmatic character but even the former Zimbabwe cricket star couldn’t stop himself feeling over the moon after Multan Sultans clinched their maiden HBL Pakistan Super League title in Abu Dhabi late on Thursday night.
Multan, who were the sixth and last franchise inducted to the PSL bandwagon in 2018, comprehensively outplayed Peshawar Zalmi by 47 runs at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium. An elated Flower, the team’s head coach, opined the journey to the title was incredible when his side was on the verge of elimination during the first leg in Karachi back in March.
“I’m very proud of our boys and all of them performed sensationally. I think the best thing about winning this trophy is that we came back from nowhere. We lost four out of five [matches] in Karachi and most people then had written us off,” Flower said during the post-final interview. “But importantly no one in our dressing room had written us off. So to comeback from that [dismal start in the competition] and inch up the table and finishing among top is really important for your chance to make the final.
“We did that straightaway. And then I thought the boys performed outstandingly under pressure tonight because that ball swung, moved around and bounced a bit upfront during Multan’s innings. So you know why Zalmi put us in [at the toss].
“And then at the backend, even when Shoaib Malik and [Sherfane] Rutherford making a burst towards the target and [our] guys were under pressure but they dealt with it brilliantly, brilliantly. I’m really proud of [Mohammad] Rizwan as captain and also Shan Masood who reacted like a true champion and carried himself splendidly after losing the captaincy at the end of last PSL.
“I’m very proud of everyone involved, especially all the players, old and young, because it’s just had been a brilliant experience for all of us to come from behind and win the title.
“We had nothing to lose coming into the final by playing aggressive cricket, I would though the makeup of our side is such that we don’t’ any all-rounders [to speak of] other than Sohail Tanvir at seven who has played a couple of really important innings during the tournament. So our batsmen had to do the job because there was no one backing them in lower order, and they did manfully.”
Flower was all praise for Rizwan and Sohaib Maqsood, who was the player-of-the-match in the final and player-of-the-tournament. “I could go through a lot of individuals here but Rizwan was sensational with the bat in Karachi. Sohaib Maqsood was brilliant when he got his spot at three and forced his way back into the national side, which is a great effort on his part and I’m very happy for him.
“He [Sohaib] was sensational in this campaign and can through under lot of pressure on most occasions. That was wonderful to see and I hope he goes onto the international stage and does something similar.
Flower consoled with Peshawar Zalmi, who he served as the batting coach during the inaugural edition in 2016. “I obviously feel for them tonight. Zalmi have been well guided by two great guys in [team director] Mohammad Akram and [head coach] Daren Sammy because they’ve got a rich history of getting into the playoffs and this was their fourth final. But they were out here with smile on their faces at the end of the game. They’ve done a great job for Peshawar Zalmi.”
A dejected Peshawar Zalmi skipper Wahab Riaz, meanwhile, remarked Multan were the deserving champions after his side were restricted to 159-9 while chasing a formidable target of 207.
“Multan certainly deserved to win the title because played like champions and they outplayed us in all departments,” Wahab admitted. “In hindsight, I’ll be the first person [as captain] to admit that we kept repeated the same mistakes, which we did at times in some of our previous games and paid heavily for those lapses. On the day Multan played outstanding cricket and thoroughly deserved this result.
“But overall I’m very proud of my team because it was never easy playing five matches in Karachi before the long break and then coming here knowing that we all had limited time to prepare for the backend games. Winning and losing is certainly part of the game but I’m happy to see how my boys went about their job by showing great character in tough circumstances. It wasn’t just our day that we didn’t perform well enough [to get over the line] when it mattered most.
“The guys gave their best. Shoaib [Malik] and [Sherfane] Rutherford had a good tournament as did [Mohammad] Imran. I’m sure Insha’Allah he’ll learn a lot from this experience being too young and hone his skills further as fine pace bowler. I think he’s a good prospect to have [for the future].
“Our fans are extremely disappointed at Peshawar not becoming champions for the second time. Their support has been phenomenal and hopefully, we’ll comeback strongly next time because we really love our supporters and make them proud once again,” Wahab concluded.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2021