Lahore, 8 February 2020: Since its inception, the HBL Pakistan Super League has not only brought sparking talent to the limelight but has served as an inspiration to many youngsters.
The league, which is amongst the most famous T20 competitions around the world, has been a steppingstone for up and coming cricketers who have gone on to achieve accolades in international cricket.
Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan are such names. Coming in the HBL PSL after the first edition, they turned heads in their maiden tournaments and made an impact when they wore the Pakistan star.
Fakhar Zaman, an established international opener who played a crucial role in Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 triumph, rose to prominence after a successful 2016-17 season in which he scored a century for Habib Bank Limited against Water and Power Development Authority in the second innings of the final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and ended as the second highest run-getter in the Pakistan Cup, scoring at an average of 59.40.
He was picked by Lahore Qalandars for the second edition, in 2017, and was quick to make an impact by playing a crucial role in his side’s first-ever win against arch-rivals Karachi Kings. The left-hander scored 56 off 36 balls, which included five fours and three sixes, to set up a daunting 179 for eight.
Talking to pcb.com.pk on his HBL PSL journey, Fakhar Zaman said: “I was in Dubai, playing local cricket, during the first edition and I used to watch HBL PSL matches there with my friends. It was very heartening to see my fellow cricketers play in a big league.
“It was a great feeling when I joined Lahore Qalandars. Having top international players in the team’s dressing room and in the opposition helped me learn a lot about the game.
“My best HBL PSL memory is from that season. I remember we had just lost to Karachi King and gotten knocked out of the tournament. Mickey Arthur tapped me on my back and told me to stay ready as he will call me for the Pakistan camp. I still speak to people about it. It will certainly remain one of the best memories of my cricketing career.”
Shaheen Shah Afridi, now a permanent fixture in Pakistan’s all three sides, grabbed Lahore Qalandars’ attention after a phenomenal first-class debut in the 2017-18 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The tall left-arm pacer, then just 17, returned eight for 39– the best figures for a Pakistan fast-bowler on first-class debut.
He then went on to represent Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in early 2018 where he finished as the highest wicket-taker for Pakistan and fifth overall with 12 wickets at 14.58 in five matches. His economy rate of 3.58 was the best amongst the top-five wicket-takers.
Making his debut in the 2018 edition of the HBL PSL, Shaheen grabbed the nation’s conscious when he razed Multan Sultans’ batting line-up to record five for four, which set Lahore Qalandars’ first win in seven matches that season.
Recalling his maiden HBL PSL season, Shaheen Afridi told pcb.com.pk: “HBL PSL is a perfect platform for the youngsters as it helps in recognition of the young talent. I used to watch the HBL PSL matches with my elder brother, Riaz Afridi, at my home. He is my first coach and he used to guide me while watching the matches on how to bowl in T20 matches.
“I started playing cricket in 2015 at the U16 level. After I made my first-class debut, I was invited by Aaqib Javed for Lahore Qalandars’ trials after which I was picked in the emerging category and from there my HBL PSL journey began.
“I used to watch Brendon McCullum and Fakhar Zaman and it was a dream to play and share the dressing room with them. Joining the HBL PSL was like I have entered a place where all of my dreams are coming true. I wanted to play Pakistan next and the Almighty gave me that as well.
“My favourite memory is my five-wicket haul against Multan Sultans in my debut season. I had not been able to perform that season so I had met Sameen [Rana, the owner of Lahore Qalandars] bhai at the breakfast and told him that I don’t want this money as the team is losing because of me. But, he gave me the confidence after which I performed.”
In his maiden HBL PSL season – which was in 2017 – Shadab Khan was turning heads for his ability to spin the ball both ways. He finished that season with nine wickets in eight matches at an average of just over 19.
It was his brilliant run in the 2015-16 Inter-region U19 one-day tournament, in which he was the best bowler with 32 wickets at a staggering average of 7.38 and in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, where finished as Pakistan’s joint-highest wicket-taker with 11 scalps, that raised his stocks ahead of the HBL Player Draft for the second edition.
A few weeks after his HBL PSL debut, Shadab made his T20I debut against West Indies and the leggie impressed with bagging back to back man-of-the-match awards in his first two international games at the senior level.
He was a vital cog in the Pakistan squad that won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 by beating India in the final at The Oval in the summer of 2017. This season, he will be leading Islamabad United.
Speaking about his selection and the quality of cricket in HBL PSL, Shadab Khan told pcb.com.pk: “I was playing for Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016 and despite having a busy schedule I remember watching two-three matches.
“After the first HBL PSL edition, I played under Misbah-ul-Haq in the Pentangular Cup as an emerging player and, thankfully, I put up a good performance in my first match, which was also my List-A debut. After which I was selected for Pakistan ‘A’ tour where I performed really well. My performances in the lead up to the second edition and playing under Misbah bhai helped me in getting recognised.
“We were on our way to Zimbabwe for a Pakistan ‘A’ tour and I was on the plane when the draft for the second edition was going on. I had a belief in myself that I would be selected, but I was a little anxious. I got to know that I have been selected through a message from the Islamabad United manager when we landed at Dubai airport. That feeling, I cannot put in words.
“HBL PSL emulates the conditions that a player comes across in international matches as all the best players from around the world participate in it. Performing in this league really boosts the confidence of a player. When I played my first season for Islamabad United, I got to bowl to big names like Kumar Sangakkara and Chris Gayle and I deceived them with my googlies which gave me that confidence in my abilities.”
The fifth HBL PSL edition begins on 20 February with a glamorous opening ceremony followed by the tournament opener between defending champions Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United at Karachi’s National Stadium.