HBL PSL: Amid uncertainty off the pitch, Qalandars and Zalmi focus on the game

Published February 26, 2023
Lahore Qalandars’ captain Shaheen Shah Afridi appeals for LBW against Quetta Gladiators’ opener Jason Roy during their HBL Pakistan Super League match at the National Stadium on Tuesday. — AFP
Lahore Qalandars’ captain Shaheen Shah Afridi appeals for LBW against Quetta Gladiators’ opener Jason Roy during their HBL Pakistan Super League match at the National Stadium on Tuesday. — AFP
Peshawar Zalmi’s Dasun Shanaka (L) plays a ashot during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 23. — AFP
Peshawar Zalmi’s Dasun Shanaka (L) plays a ashot during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 23. — AFP

LAHORE: Shaheen Shah Afridi had a straight answer: “It’s a matter for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to deal with.” Amid the uncertainty over the staging of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches in Lahore and Rawalpindi, with the PCB refusing to budge on the demand of the Punjab government to pay Rs450 million as security expenditure, the Lahore Qalandars captain was only looking forward to his side’s first home game of the season.

On Sunday, the Qalandars take on Peshawar Zalmi and it seems as if it will be the first of two matches they will play at the Gaddafi Stadium with the PCB planning to shift the remainder of the PSL to Karachi from Tuesday. “My focus is on Sunday’s match and I hope the fans enjoy it,” said Shaheen with the match bringing Pakistan’s premier fast bowler face to face against the country’s top batter in Babar Azam, the Zalmi skipper.

“We all like Babar Azam and whenever I bowl at him in the nets, I enjoy it,” he added in his pre-match press conference on Saturday. “No doubt, Babar is a world-class batsman and I always have a target to give my team an early breakthrough so it will be good competition.”

Babar too is looking forward to the challenge. “It is always cheering and challenging for me to face Shaheen, who is one of the leading world fast bowlers,” Babar told reporters. “I will face Shaheen’s pace with a smile and not a weeping face as it is my habit to meet everyone with a smile. Playing against Shaheen always gives confidence and it is challenging.”

Fourth-placed Zalmi trail Qalandars, in third, on net run rate having played a game more and it is expected to be a cracking contest under lights.

Babar, Pakistan’s all-format captain, has won two and lost two matches as skipper of Zalmi in his first season so far. He said his goal was to lift the trophy at the end of it all.

“I couldn’t win it as skipper of Karachi Kings so my aim is to lift the trophy,” he said, adding that he was impressed with the improvement shown by his opening partner Mohammad Haris.

Shaheen, who led the Qalandars to their maiden PSL title last season, was looking to his opener Abdullah Shafique to provide his side with the impetus that the free-flowing Haris provides Zalmi.

“Abdullah is a classic batter and he wasn’t able to play in the previous matches as he was suffering from flu but he’s now back,” informed Shaheen.

After Sunday’s match, the Qalandars take on Islamabad United on Monday at the Gaddafi Stadium in what could prove to be their final home game this season. “The idea is to make home advantage count,” said Shaheen.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2023

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