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Top-performers from first-class cricket need to be picked for the PSL

Ahmed Shehzad
Ahmed Shehzad

The emergence of young fast-bowlers in PSL4 is a great sign for Pakistan cricket

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind who watched the Pakistan Super League this year about the improvement in the overall standard of the tournament. To start with, there were some very closely contested games which added a lot of excitement to the proceedings and made the games very enjoyable. Then there was the improvement in the quality of overseas players which helped raise the bar but the real cherry on the cake for me was the emergence of a battery of young fast-bowlers who were bowling at rapid pace throughout the tournament. However, when it came to the quality of batting from our players, the news wasn’t that good, and I was very disappointed. The eight games played in Pakistan were played in front of jam-packed houses and to me these were important baby-steps taken towards moving the whole tournament back to Pakistan. Such steps are necessary to get to the goal of restoring international cricket in Pakistan and I am glad to see that we are well on our way in that regard.

Pick technically sound first-class players for PSL squads

Whilst the PSL’s formula for success seems to be doing well for most parts, I do feel that an important improvement can be made which will increase the benefits of this tournament to Pakistan cricket. We need to pick top-performers from First-class cricket who are technically sound, rather than batsmen who can slog and give you quick runs. To me, contrary to what many might think, there is a lot of room for technically well-equipped players in Twenty20 cricket and having such players in the PSL sides will enhance the quality of cricket and also be a source of encouragement for first-class players as well. To further enhance this proposal, I would also agree with Dean Jones idea of having at least two Pakistani players in the top four batting spots for each PSL side. Such proposals are necessary to get the maximum benefit out of the PSL for the improvement of our game.

More thought needed when choosing local players for PSL drafts

The rules around the composition of PSL sides in terms of the ratio of foreign players to local ones are fine from my point of view but where I would like more thought to be put into, is in choosing the pool of local players available at the draft stage. What we need to do is to make sure that we select top-performers from our domestic cricket who are technically competent. After doing this, we need to carefully consider what type of overseas players we need in the mix to provide the right balance to the side as it is no longer necessary to bring in overseas players just for the sake of it as PSL has moved on from that stage.

We need to invest in the development of talented batsmen like Ahsan Ali

Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad showed with their improved performances during the PSL that they can still be handy for Pakistan cricket and more importantly, have worked on some of the deficiencies that had been pointed out previously about their batting. I was also impressed with Ahsan Ali from Quetta Gladiators and this is exactly the type of talent that needs to be recognised and developed to serve Pakistan in the future. Any such player who is showing a spark should be encouraged and we need to invest in these players. 

Mohammad Hasnain has pace but needs to learn to be a better bowler

The emergence of some really excellent young fast-bowlers at the 2019 PSL was very encouraging and here I would like to mention Mohammad Hasnain in particular. When I first saw him bowl, I straight away commented that he deserved a place in the Pakistan international side and thankfully, he will be featuring for Pakistan in the ODI series against Australia. This is in line with our tradition of giving raw-fast-bowling talent a chance to play international cricket so his inclusion in the ODI squad is very heartening. We must now, not fall in the trap of insisting that Hasnain should be working to improve his pace as he has enough pace in his arsenal. What he needs to concentrate on is over management, and if he does play the 4-Day or Test version of the game then he has to work upon spell management as well. But most of all, what he needs to be taught is on setting up a batsman so that he can get him out. So, for example, he needs to know when to use the bouncer, the inswinger or the slower one and against what type of batsman. This is what he needs to be helped on instead of stressing on his pace which we already know he has.

Rawalpindi or Islamabad as new venues for PSL games in Pakistan

Given the success of the 2019 edition of the PSL, there is obviously interest in holding PSL 5 in its entirety in Pakistan which is a noble thought in itself. We have definitely taken the initial steps towards convincing the world that Pakistan is indeed a safe place for hosting international events. We did that by organising a world-class tournament which took place without any untoward incidents happening. We of course recognise the fact that today’s world is a place where one can be at the wrong place at the wrong time and Pakistan is no exception to this rule. Now that we have shown the world that we have all the necessary security protocols in place, we need to have more than one venue lined up to hold PSL games, or there is a danger of the tournament losing its novelty value amongst local crowds. In this regard, I would suggest using a stadium in Rawalpindi or Islamabad as the third venue which will bring a new flavour to the tournament. Once we can successfully hold games in these three venues, we can start exploring possibilities of adding more cities to hold PSL games. 

Coordinating with the Players’ Association for a complete return of PSL to Pakistan

PCB to its credit has made good contacts with the various Boards around the world to convince them of allowing their players to participate in Pakistan, and also demonstrated its ability to host top-level cricket in the country. What they have neglected to do so far, is to get in touch with the players’ associations and ask for their support for PSL to be played completely in Pakistan. This type of coordination is necessary and the way to do that is to use the positive comments made by the overseas players who have played in Pakistan during the PSL and use them to try and convince the associations to have a favourable opinion of Pakistan as a cricket destination. The result of such efforts could mean that more and better-quality overseas players would come to Pakistan for the next edition of the PSL.