KARACHI: It is the quality of the fast bowlers at the HBL Pakistan Super League, which has stood out for former Australia all-rounder James Faulkner, who believes the tournament is “right up there” with its Indian counterpart.

The 31-year-old, who plays for Quetta Gladiators, is impressed with the likes of Pakistan pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Nasim Shah among other factors that make the tournament special.

“Only a handful of Australian players have been involved in the PSL and every time I get asked about it, for me, the amount of skill and talent the young players have and all the players have over here, in particular, the thing that stands out for me is the pace of the bowlers,” Faulkner told Dawn the other day.

“There are a lot of fast Pakistani quicks around and they’re young, which is really exciting. We’ve obviously seen Shaheen Afridi with his burst out season last year and what he’s been capable to do. You’ve got Haris Rauf as well; they’re obviously the top two.

“Then we’ve obviously got Nasim [Shah] in our team, he bowls really fast, has good change of pace, good yorkers, he’s got a really bright future.”

Faulkner went on to say the PSL was one of the top two T20 leagues in the world, the top being the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“When it comes to how hard the tournament is, it has to be right up there, obviously,” said the 2015 World Cup winner.

“I’ll be honest and say obviously the IPL’s the peak when it comes to that but the PSL I think is definitely a close second ahead of any other tournament.

“They’re the top two in the world and having been involved now for the second time it’s very clear.”

Quetta Gladiators have managed to win only two of their five matches in the ongoing PSL. After starting off their campaign with a victory against Karachi Kings, they lost the next three matches, before English batter Jason Roy’s blistering century led them to their second win, against Lahore Qalandars, on Monday.

Before that, Gladiators captain Sarfraz Ahmed was being criticised for his leadership methods. Faulkner backed the former Pakistan skipper and praised him for being “transparent”.

“I’ve only played four games under him; he is very clear and transparent with morale and what he is after with me, whether it’s in the powerplay with the ball and through the middle or the death, then obviously with the bat at the end,” said the Tasmanian. “For me, he has been good. He’s been very clear with what he wants.”

With Australia set to tour Pakistan for the first time after 24 years to play three Tests, as many One-day Internationals and a T20 International, Faulkner said the matches will be closely contested.

He believed the batters and spin bowlers will have key roles to play during the Test series specifically, but insisted that reverse swing is going to decide the matches.

“It’s going to be a really good contest between bat and ball, and in particular, I think spin bowling over here,” said Faulkner.

“But also I think the game’s really going to be won with reverse swing and I think if Shaheen Afridi bowls with a reversing ball, that’s going to create a lot of challenges for the Australian team.”

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2022

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