The league provided a competitive pedestal to six leading captains to show their leadership styles and abilities
The curtains have finally fallen on the 8th edition of HBL PSL on a successful note. Mr Najam Sethi, his team and franchise owners along with local administration, security personnel and media partners deserve kudos for hosting a successful edition of PSL under challenging circumstances.
Different quarters rate PSL success in different ways. Those interested in ratings compare it with IPL, others view its success in terms of competitive matches and runs scored and wickets claimed. The financial gurus see PCB paying 700 million rupees in taxes and providing 500-million-rupee business opportunities.
I view PSL in terms of new products created and leadership evolved in competitive white ball cricket within the country. Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir, Ihsanullah, Abbas Afridi and Ibrar Ahmad are the rising stars with bright futures in white ball Cricket. I pin my hopes more on Saim Ayub due to his ability to play 360-degree shots as a dynamic left-handed batsman with solid batting technique. However, the young man has yet to go a long way, and prove his worth on seeming tracks against world class attacks with red ball.
Ihsanullah without any doubt is a force to reckon with in the fast-bowling department, who impressed everyone with speed, movement and bounce on pure batting tracks in PSL. His fitness and bowling style will surely help him in troubling world class batsmen, with both white and red balls around the Cricketing world.
Leadership in Pakistan cricket is a vital area that has remained under scrutiny of keen observers since the T20 World Cup of 2022, and the visit of the English team to Pakistan in September last year. PSL provided a competitive pedestal to six leading captains to show their leadership styles and abilities.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imad Wasim, Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan in order of priority impressed me with their leadership styles. Imad staged a successful comeback after regaining fitness. Imad will have to remain mindful of the fact that despite his good game sense and all-round Cricketing ability, ignoring the aspect of fitness in the modern-day game may impact his long-term plans to play all forms of Cricket.
Shadab is an excellent all-round Cricketer, who has been nominated Captain of Pakistan team against Afghanistan primarily because he has been performing the duties of deputy to Babar Azam for a couple of years.
I feel sorry for Abbas Afridi who despite claiming most wickets in PSL this year is not among the seventeen players selected. The selectors may justify exclusion of Abbas for the short series because Sharjah wicket is more suitable for spinners, yet I have failed to understand the inclusion of two wicketkeeper batsmen for three T20 matches. If Azam Khan has been included in the team because of his good form with the bat, the same criteria should have been applied for poor Abbas with the ball.
Realising the importance of fitness and management of workload among the professional Cricketers the management has taken a bold decision to rest Babar, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Rizwan, so that they can undergo much needed mental and physical recovery before the start of the hectic cricket season ahead.
Another noteworthy outcome at the conclusion of PSL is the appointment of Coaching staff for the Pakistan team on pure merit and performance. It is perhaps for the first time in history of Pakistan Cricket that the Chairman PCB has not bowed down to the pressure of retired senior Cricketers and media nexus in naming the head coach.
Instead of just pleasing some senior Cricketers by appointing him as head coach, the management has appointed Abdul Rehman the head Coach of the national team.
Abdul Rehman, an ex-school teacher who holds a master’s degree in International Relations, is a level IV qualified coach who hails from Quetta. Abdul Rehman is a highly respected Cricket Coach. As head Coach of KP, he won the National T-20, Pakistan Cup and Quaid e Azam trophy under his coaching.
Rehman has worked under Andy Flower in Multan Sultans for the last four years. Rehman also successfully coached Pakistan under 19 and was assistant coach of Peshawar Zalmi when they won the 2017 PSL. I presume that Abdul Rehman with Umar Gul will form an excellent coaching combination.
Realizing the importance of women cricket and use of sports for the empowerment of women, PCB organized three exhibition T 20 matches in Rawalpindi. The effort must be appreciated but the fact of the matter is that women’s sports have yet to go a long way in Pakistan.
To my mind there are three major reasons for lower standards of sports amongst the women athletes in the country. The stereotypes can’t be shunned until and unless sports and physical education are promoted in women’s schools and colleges. The second most important factor is the involvement of parents in women’s sports and the availability of safe playing areas for them. The third most important, cricket-specific factor is the promotion and coaching of cricket and physical fitness for women cricketers beyond a few colleges and universities in two or three major cities of Pakistan.
The women’s Cricket franchise will only flourish and attract sponsors, viewers and media if the quality of product is enhanced. I think that in the present socio-political situation of the country it’s a little premature to think about the women’s cricket franchise in Pakistan.
Men’s cricket is the only sport in Pakistan which has the luxury of a large pool of quality players in the country, which is one of the basic prerequisites for sustainable development of the sport.