From outstanding individual performances to scuffles between players, and a million dollars for a catch in the crowd to emerging new stars, this month has been a roller coaster ride for all the cricket-starved fans in Pakistan.
The inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) could have been made garish by adding a couple of cheer leaders and extravagant programs like other leagues, but the electric atmosphere and quality cricket more than made up for the sideshows and made it stand out from its competition.
When jam-packed stadiums in Dubai and Sharjah echoed with slogans celebrating Pakistan, it was enough to melt our hearts and make the league something we could proudly own.
A standing ovation to all those stellar performances, nail-biting finishes, the few pinches of arguments and emerging players shining through and making their presence felt.
Cheers to the journey of PSL ’16!
Here are a few moments that revived our love for the game:
Who knew that the heat between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars would be more than the India-Pakistan battles?
It was in the build up to that anticipated clash that our Facebook newsfeeds busted ‘metro vs. chingchi’ jokes.
And when Amir took a hat-trick and Lendll Simmons in partnership with Shakib Al Hasan established a 109-run stand, our hearts pounded and erupted in jubilation.
Kings easily won the match and it looked like that it would go on to dominate the league, which unfortunately didn’t happen.
A sporting hero is an individual capable of conjuring something extra when it really matters. The unheralded Cheema proved himself to be the ‘hero’ for Quetta Gladiators in a tense playoff against Peshawar Zalmi.
Eight required in six was elementary considering the batsman-dominated nature of the game today. Everybody had their money on Zalmi to emerge victorious, but then the unpredictable happened.
Cheema steamed in, hit the deck hard, and he gave us a repeat performance of that nerve-wracking last over in 2012 Asia Cup final when Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs.
Just as movies are incomplete without a dash of fireworks, a cricket league too cannot make headlines without a bit of controversy and drama.
Remember Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir’s scuffle in the India-Pakistan ODI at Kanpur? And when Ishant Sharma got in the face of our very own Kamran Akmal?
The list of such quarrels is endless but there is nothing to feel bad about. It’s not cricket if there are no emotions or a little bit of banter.
The Wahab-Shehzad brawl offered a glimpse into how seriously the players were taking the PSL and it wasn’t just fun and games. There were emotions, rivalry and a thirst to tear apart oppositions.
Gul vs. Afridi next edition?
It was not the first time that Shahid Afridi’s daughters showed up for a match.
They were seen in the stands on several occasions before the PSL to show support to their father Mr. ‘Boom Boom’.
But this time we saw them teary-eye and biting their nails restlessly as the match against Quetta Gladiators turned upside down for Peshawar Zalmi.
It made us feel terrible for Zalmi.
All the fans were thrilled by Quetta’s impressive show yet can’t get over those innocent, sad faces.
Quetta were termed the PSL’s ‘underdogs’ from day one, and with their gutsy performances they didn’t take long to become a neutral’s favourite.
Afghanistan Mohammad Nabi did it for Quetta against Qalandars and it was something about the understated player pulling off a sensation win which further enhanced the charm of the Gladiators.
The target on the scoreboard was mountainous. The first 200+ score was set to be chased down, and Quetta took it on rather bravely.
That match eventually sent a message across to other franchises that despite being a low-budget team and their ‘underdogs’ tag, the Quetta XI would not go down without a fight.
Nabi’s towering sixes and steely courage made way for the Gladiators to progress to the next stage in style.
The proudest moment of PSL was undoubtedly Sharjeel’s century.
With the league dominated by foreign batsmen for the most part, Sharjeel smacking the first century of the PSL was a moment to cherish.
Not to mention it took away the game from title-favourites Zalmi. Courtesy his knock, Sharjeel received national call up for the forthcoming World T20 in India.
Loved Darren Sammy’s passion? What would you say about Sir Vivian Richards jumping in excitement?
How about Sangakkara apologising to Quetta’s dugout for not hanging in there for a little longer or Kevin Pietersen advising young Mohammad Nawaz on what length to bowl?
The PSL was dotted with several moments when cricket just felt like a universal force.
As Misbah-ul-Haq hit those winning runs to lift the title, Islamabad’s slogan rang true for all of us: united we win.
Pakistan had won, and with cricket we let go of our differences.
DUBAI: Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi scored a quickfire 30 off 12 balls to help his side Quetta Gladiators chase down a mammoth 201 posted by Lahore Qalandars at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
Gladiators made 203-8 in 20 overs. In response to Qalandars’ first innings total, Gladiators run-chase heavily relied on some power hitting by their opening batsman Bismillah Khan and Kevin Pietersen as they reached 107-3 in just 10 overs.
The Quetta-born Bismillah scored 55 runs off 30 balls in an innings which included 10 fours and a six. This was Bismillah’s first outing at the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and was declared the Man of the Match.
Bismillah was supported by the England international Pietersen, who scored 34 runs off 21 deliveries hitting six fours.
Ahmed Shehzad was the first batsman to depart on four for Gladiators. Later, Kumar Sangakkara (37) and Sarfraz Ahmed (21) took the innings forward, but both of them were dismissed in quick succession by Ehsan Adil.
Adil remained the pick of bowlers of Qalandars with figures 4-0-39-4, but couldn’t finish things off for his team as Zohaib Khan failed to defend 15 runs required from the last over.
Dwayne Bravo also chipped in by claiming three wickets, whereas Kevon Cooper ended up with one.
Earlier, Skipper Azhar Ali, Chris Gayle and Umar Akmal scored half-centuries to lead Qalandars’ innings. Azhar top scored 61, Gayle 60 and Akmal unbeaten 55 as Qalandars made 201 runs for the lost of two wickets.
Qalandars’ innings relied on a solid 100-run opening stand between skipper Azhar and Gayle in just 10 overs, which provided opportunity for the batsmen coming down the order to aim for a big total.
During the death overs, Akmal was joined by Bravo (20) to establish an unbeaten 59-run stand for the third wicket, after Azhar was dismissed in the 16th over.
Gladiators hoped to make a comeback after a claiming a crucial Gayle wicket in the 11th over but couldn’t stop a fiery Akmal from smashing the ball all over the ground as he hit four fours and four sixes in his 25-ball knock.
Grant Elliott and Zulfiqar Babar claimed a wicket each for Gladiators after their skipper Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and decided to field first.
ISLAMABAD: Former Australian batsman Dean Jones finally arrived in Pakistan on Sunday night to take over as coach of a team in the new Twenty20 league after landing earlier without a valid visa, officials said.
Jones arrived from Dubai Saturday night but was refused entry because he had no valid visa for Pakistan and returned to the emirate.
“Jones has arrived at Lahore via a flight from Dubai,” an immigration official at Lahore airport, told AFP.
“This time his visa and other travel documents were complete,” he said.
Earlier, a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) official had told Dawn.com that Jones had come to Pakistan to attend a PSL event , but did not have a 'valid visa' for Pakistan.
The official added that Jones has been coming to Pakistan regularly for his commentating job with PTV Sports and that he is "welcome as long as his visa is valid."
In a statement sent to media, the FIA had said:
“Today, on 19.12.2015 a passanger namely Dean Mervyn Jones (Austrailian National) arrived by Flight No. EK614 without Pakistani visa. The passanger has been declared inadmissible and deported back by the same flight to the port of origin.
“He is a well known figure and was reportedly invited by PCB.
“He arrived without Pakistani visa and no permission letter of VOA, BVOA, LP was sent by Interior to waive visa condition.
In present case deportation of the said person was the only option left with FIA immigration, thus he has been deported.”
But Jones said on Twitter that he was “not deported” and will be coming to Lahore later tonight. He said he held a visa and that his “paperwork was incomplete due to recent changes in visa policy.”
Former Twenty20 captain Younis Khan, veteran all-rounder Abdul Razzaq and spin wizard Saeed Ajmal remained unpicked as day two of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) got underway on Tuesday.
It is worth noting that Pakistan’s only World T20 title came under Younis’ leadership in 2009.
Pakistan’s T20 skipper Shahid Afridi on Monday became the first pick of the PSL after Peshawar Zalmi signed up the flamboyant all-rounder to play for its franchise.
The second phase of drafting is underway at National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. Players belonging to the ‘Silver’ and ‘Emerging’ categories are being inducted into the league’s five franchises.
With 308 cricketers on board, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) kicked off players’ drafting for ‘Platinum’, ‘Diamond’ and ‘Gold’ categories yesterday.
“World best cricket talent has been picked to be a part of all the participating teams which shows the importance of the league,” says Wasim Akram
“The league is a great way of the learning for our young players who will be earning handsome money besides gaining the much needed experience to enhance their experience besides showcasing their potentialities,” says Ramiz Raja
“Let’s create an atmosphere where everyone can learn from each other,” says Mushtaq Ahmed
Shahid Afridi said he would have loved to play for any team but it made more sense for him to play for Peshawar Zalmi because it complements the work his foundation is doing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s remote areas.
Giving credit to the PCB for organising the mega cricket league, Afridi said the platform should be used to promote new faces and to encourage new talent.
Karachi Kings didn’t hesitate in signing up the former captain Shoaib Malik to play for them, while Quetta Gladiators got England star Kevin Pietersen.
But Lahore Qalandars perhaps made the most interesting pick for its franchise by signing West Indian hardhitter Chris Gayle. Shane Watson of Australia was picked up by Islamabad United.
The PSL has already finalised the sale of commercial rights for franchises, broadcast, and title sponsorship.
“By opting for a draft system in place of a player auction, PSL will ensure a level-playing field as each team will have to choose a certain number of players from each category. As a result of this, each team will spend an equal amount on drafting players. Top players will, therefore, play for all five teams,” the PCB said in a statement.
The PSL player list includes 137 Pakistani and 171 foreign players. The short-listed players have been divided into five categories:
Each team will be required to pick three players per category from each of the top three categories (Platinum, Diamond and Gold).
While drafting of two emerging players will be mandatory, a team will also be able to pick up to five players from the ‘Silver’ category in order to complete the squad.
Each team will have a minimum of four foreign players in the playing 11. The inaugural edition of the PSL is scheduled to take place from Feb 4-23, 2016 in Dubai and Sharjah.
NEW YORK: Amid a sea of Indian shirts, fluttering Pakistan flags and deafening roars, New York cricket fans turned out in their thousands to watch greats of the game face off against each other on Saturday ─ in a baseball stadium.
Australian spin king Shane Warne and Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar captained two star-studded teams in a Twenty20 match designed to introduce Americans to the world's second most popular sport.
Warne's Warriors beat Sachin's Blasters, with Warne man of the match after claiming Tendulkar's wicket.
But it was the Indian star whom most of the overwhelming South Asian expatriate crowd had come to see.
"Sachin, Sachin, Sachin," screamed the stadium in unison, hundreds wearing blue Indian shirts, many with the record-breaking batsman's name emblazoned on the back.
"Sachin for President," read one banner.
Snacking on hot dogs and nachos, chewing on pretzels and quaffing beer, for many it was the first time in years they had watched live cricket in America, long starved of the sport.
The three-hour match will be followed by games in Houston and Los Angeles.
Warne told reporters 36,000 people had packed into the Citi Field ─ home of the New York Mets baseball team ─ for the game.
"I thought it was fantastic, the atmosphere was amazing," he said.
At the end, the players lapped the pitch, waving and applauding the crowd, which Tendulkar compared to the home crowd at the Mets' World Series.
LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan rebuffed suggestions from newly-appointed ICC president Zaheer Abbas that Pakistan should show flexibility and even consider going to India for their bilateral series.
Former Pakistan batting great Zaheer said on Monday that the PCB should be willing to go to India for their home series in December to ensure the revival of cricketing ties between two countries but Shaharyar said that they will wait for a final reply from the BCCI till October.
“We will not go to India to play our bilateral series there and I’m writing a letter to the BCCI to clear our stance and we will wait for their reply till October,” the PCB chief told Dawn on Tuesday.
According to the MoU signed between the PCB and the BCCI last year, six bilateral series in the next eight years are planned.
The PCB is to host the first one in the UAE in December but the Indian government, citing political reasons, hasn’t allowed the BCCI to confirm participation.
“It seems they don’t want to play a bilateral series as they are raising political issues while the PCB believes that sports should not be mixed with politics,” Shaharyar said.
He admitted that if the series wasn’t held, it would deprive the PCB of huge revenue and “wouldn’t be good for both the game and the financial position of the board”.
“India shouldn’t mix politics with sport,” he added. “Cricket is a source of great entertainment for the people of the two countries and the series between the arch-rivals is bigger than the Ashes.”
Shaharyar indicated the PCB had already made a Plan-B, to help minimise losses, which will be implemented after they have heard the BCCI’s final decision.
Although he didn’t disclose the details of that plan, sources have told Dawn that it isn’t related to any cricketing activity.
A strong austerity campaign may be launched to reduce the PCB expenditure to minimize the losses — approximately US$50million — which will be suffered if the India series doesn’t go ahead as planned. A short-sizing of PCB staff may also be included in the austerity campaign.
On the issue of the tainted duo of Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif featuring in the domestic season, Shaharyar said that the PCB had handed them a rehabilitation programme which they had to complete first before making their comeback in phases.
Salman and Asif, who were caught in the infamous spot-fixing scandal in 2010, were cleared by the ICC last week to feature in domestic cricket from September 2 after their punishments were reduced but the PCB has refrained from allowing them to return just yet.
“Under the rehabilitation programme, they [Salman and Asif] will have to visit all the regions and enlighten the players about the consequences of any negative activity,” Shaharyar said. “After that, they can play club cricket and then Grade-II cricket.”
KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has called upon the Indian cricket authorities not to mix sports with politics following reports of the scheduled Pakistan-India bilateral series this December being cancelled.
Speaking on the sidelines of the media conference at the National Stadium for the 13-day fast bowlers’ camp, Wasim urged India to honour its commitments and play Pakistan as per the schedule.
Commenting on ex-Indian captain Saurav Ganguly’s controversial comments that the series should be called off because of the recent conflict on the border of the two countries, the legendary fast bowler said during his career he had no problems playing against India.
As per the Memorandum of Understanding, Pakistan and India are to play six series against each other in an eight-year period till 2023. In accordance with the stipulations of the memorandum, the Pakistan Cricket Board had requested India to play the first of those series in December.
Ganguly in his comment backed the Indian cricket board secretary Anurag Thakur’s statement that in the current scenario the series cannot be staged.
“I think the BCCI is correct in saying that terror will have to completely go before play could happen. Because as human beings we also want terror to completely go,” Ganguly was quoted as saying in the Indian media. “So this has always been the case with an India-Pakistan series.
“As much as we understand that it is entertaining and it is a high-profile series, we cannot take away the sufferings which the people go through at the border.”
But Wasim urged the neighbouring country not to mix sports with politics.
“We shouldn’t be mixing sports with politics. Cricket is a binding force for both our countries. During my playing days, we toured India in 1999 when the [political] situation on the political front was not dissimilar to what we have today,” recalled Wasim.
Wasim emphasised the importance of an India-Pakistan series and described cricket matches between the two nations as magical.
“Just see the Ashes series between England and Australia. It’s always been very attractive. But to me, there is more to it when Pakistan play India or vice versa. The passion for cricket in the region is huge and there is tremendous interest on both sides of the border whenever a cricket series [between Pakistan and India] is on,” he said. “The focus should be on sports and not politics.”
Meanwhile, Wasim backed the PCB to hold the Pakistan Super League (PSL) early next year and pointed out he has no qualms about the venue.
“I think the cricket board is doing the right thing. The PSL is a great idea and should be held as planned. Personally, I see no worries whether it is played in our country or elsewhere. The fact is that we should at least make a start somewhere,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Wasim expressed surprise over the omission of Sarfraz Ahmed from the two-match T20 series against Sri Lanka.
Speaking before the start of the second game at the Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium, Wasim rated the national ODI and T20 vice-captain as a vital cog in the national team.
“In view Sarfraz is our key player in all three forms of cricket and he has proved it time and again. Not playing in the first match [on Thursday] made no sense to me. I mean he is the vice-captain and to keep him out was ridiculous,” he reasoned.
“When he was overlooked for four [straight] matches at the World Cup, all of us were surprised to see Sarfraz not in the team and expressed our annoyance.
“He returned with a bang to prove that he shouldn’t have been dropped at all. As far as I’m concerned, Sarfraz should be playing in all three formats since he is our main player.”