By our correspondent
KARACHI: Last season did not go well for former winners Quetta Gladiators. They finished fifth in the six-team event’s round league stage. They had received a major blow just before kick-off of their last season journey when their most valuable batsman Umar Akmal was suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
However Gladiators this season boast of some experienced T20 cricketers including Chris Gayle, Ben Cutting, Dale Steyn, Cameron Delport, Tom Banton and Faf du Plessis who has replaced partially Gayle who will turn up later if selected in the West Indies T20 squad for the Sri Lanka series. Some of the prominent home-grown resources are frontline pacemen Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Shinwari and Naseem Shah, leggies Zahid Mahmood and Qais Ahmad of Afghanistan, allrounders Anwar Ali and Mohammad Nawaz besides having hard-hitting young batsman Azam Khan who has been improving with each passing day.
Gladiators skipper Sarfraz Ahmad is satisfied with his squad. “We have high aims as a fine squad has been made,” Sarfraz told reporters here on Thursday.
“Effort would be made to field the best possible line-up in the first game so that it could play until the last match of the event,” said Sarfraz, also a former Pakistan captain.
Commenting on fast bowler Naseem Shah’s fitness Sarfraz said: “Yes he had injury but now he is looking in rhythm as we played a practice game yesterday. I am very much confident whenever he will play he will click.”
“Usman Shinwari’s presence will also add to the team’s strength,” Sarfraz was quick to add.
Sarfraz aims to go with six specialist batsmen.
“In T20 you have to go with top six specialist batsmen. We will also try to stick to this formula. In tail too Zahid and Shinwari are capable to bat well,” said Sarfraz.
He said former Test pacer and one of the world’s best T20 cricketer Umar Gul’s presence as a bowling coach will help young pacers to learn and gain experience.
“Having Gul as bowling coach will benefit the side. He was the most lethal bowler in the shorter format I have ever seen and his presence as a bowling coach will help young fast bowlers to learn. We also have Dale Steyn and the young lot should grab this opportunity and learn from both,” Sarfraz said.
He also lauded young batsman Usman Khan, saying he is a real future prospect.
Gladiators will boast of two leggies in the season including upcoming Zahid Mahmood, who had an impressive T20 debut against South Africa recently and Qais Ahmad of Afghanistan, who also has played one Test.
“Both are very good bowlers. If it was possible then effort would be made to play both,” said Sarfraz.
He said that they would enjoy the crowd this time, saying, the previous few games they played last year in an empty stadium were boring.
Sarfraz clarified that he would act as a frontline stumper in the season.
“Yes I will keep the wickets as usual. If there is any injury to me then we have Azam Khan as a back-up stumper,” Sarfraz said.
“I will try my best to bat at my own number. It will become clear after we will set a combination,” the skipper said.
“There is no issue with Mohammad Hafeez. He is my senior and I respect him and will do so,” said Sarfraz who and Hafeez had some messages exchanged recently on Rizwan.
Asked does he aim anything big with the bat this season in order to regain his spot in the Pakistan team Sarfraz said” “I will play the way I had played in the previous five seasons. I want to perform as a player and as a captain for Quetta Gladiators,” said Sarfraz, who is serving Pakistan as a second choice wicket-keeper because of Rizwan’s super form both as keeper and batsman.