“We have got a good combination this season,” says Zalmi skipper Wahab Riaz

From our correspondent

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi are one of the successful franchises of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). They lost the Eliminator-2 to Islamabad United by 50 runs in Dubai in the first edition in 2016. In the 2017 edition they emerged as champions. And in 2018 and 2019 editions Zalmi finished as runners-up. Last season Zalmi ended fourth at the points table after the league round, their poorest show in the event’s history. However they were lucky to qualify for the play-offs but there they were beaten by Lahore Qalandars in the eliminator last November.

Zalmi faced several issues last year and more specifically they were immensely found wanting pinch-hitters in the death overs. But Zalmi’s skipper Wahab Riaz said they have tried to fill that void for the 2021 season which will begin here at National Stadium from February 20.

“We were lacking in the lower middle order last season where we had always clicked before. In the first season we had Shahid Afridi and Darren Sammy and then we had Sammy and Pollard. You need such pinch-hitters from No6 to 8 who could score ten to 12 runs per over in the death overs. This time we have composed our team keeping in view these things,” Wahab told a virtual news conference on Tuesday. “We have David Miller, Sherfane Rutherford, Amad Butt and Imran Randhawa who can fill in these gaps. Kamran and Shoaib Malik add experience to the top order. We have tried to address the weak areas where we struggled last year. InshaAllah results will be good,” Wahab hoped.

He was confident that they have a good combination this time.

“Our combination last year did not click. It’s very important for any team to have a good combination for winning matches and an event. Last year a few individual top performances were seen but overall we struggled in both batting and bowling. This year we have a very good combination. We have informed all boys about their roles so that they could prepare well during the next four to five days ahead of the event,” Wahab said.

“Zalmi are the only team which have made it to play-offs five times and played three finals. And last year too our performance was not that bad. Yes there are some areas where we need improvement,” Wahab stressed.

Wahab said they would not repeat their last year’s mistakes.

“We have made more mistakes last year and effort would be made not to repeat these. Personally as a captain I will try not to repeat the mistakes,” said Wahab, a left-arm Test pacer.

Wahab said he feels pain after being dropped from the national team but said he currently is focusing only on the PSL.

“Obviously a person feels bad when he is not selected. But currently I don’t bother about that. I am focusing on the PSL right now. I have to fulfill the responsibility which I have been shouldered by my franchise. Yes, if I perform in this event I will inshaAllah play for Pakistan again,” said Wahab, who was not considered for the recently concluded South Africa home series after having failed to impress on the New Zealand tour.

Wahab said that Hasan’s transfer to Islamabad United from Zalmi was purely his own decision.

“It was purely his own decision. Yes, we had talked to him,” Wahab said.

“If a player remains part of a team for five years then definitely he is missed but I am happy that we have equally good bowlers in Umaid Asif, Amad Butt and Irfan. It’s a professional sport and as a player it is his right and I think players should grab such opportunities,” he said.

Wahab said they would play positive and aggressive cricket.

“In T20 cricket 160 and 170 is also not safe these days as there are innovations. Zalmi will look to play aggressive and positive cricket,” he said. “As a captain I will not mind whether our team perishes for 100 but yes I will want my team batting to click and play positive cricket. And so as a bowling unit whatever target would be set we would try to defend that,” Wahab said.

Wahab made it clear that Miller would not be available for them until March 1 due to his domestic season while the rest of the foreign players would be with them in training by Thursday.

Imam-ul-Haq is being prepared as a back-up keeper.

“Unfortunately last year in a crucial game Kamran Akmal got injured and we had to opt for Imam as a keeper. Kami bhai will be our top choice and he will play as a keeper until he remains fit. We are preparing Imam as a back-up stumper in order to cope with any such issue. We need a player like Imam who could open the innings and we know his ability as he has performed both for Pakistan and Peshawar Zalmi. I think he is a better choice after Kami bhai,” Wahab said.

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