Lahore Qalandars stand in a huddle during a training session ahead of their match against Islamabad United. Courtesy: Twitter
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad United will set the ball rolling in the first match of the Abu Dhabi leg of the Pakis tan Super League (PSL-6) on Wednesday.
The PSL 6 had come to an abrupt halt after the breach of safety protocol led to the outbreak of the coronavirus cases in the bio-secure cases in Pakistan.
The organisers decided to shift the remaining matches to the UAE, as it is seen as a safe haven for hosting the sporting events.
But after working tirelessly to overcome all logistical and operational challenges and with the support of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) finally succeeded in getting the remaining matches under way in the UAE with strict protocol.
The decision to shift the PSL-6 was prompted by the UAE’s ability to deliver the world-class sporting events like MMA fights, IPL, Abu Dhabi GP, AFC Champions League matches and DDF Tennis Championship successfully since the outbreak of the pandemic that brought the whole world down on its knees. All the matches will be held behind closed doors to maintain the safety of the players. The teams landed here in the end of May and were sent into quarantine for almost a week before resuming their training on Saturday.
However, a delayed PSL-6 will look entirely different from what it was like in the Pakistan leg. A host of players will not able to join their respective franchises as they are on national duty. There will be some new faces and few familiar ones missing as well from the Abu Dhabi leg.
When the PSL-6 was stopped, defending champions Karachi Kings, who will be in action against Multan Sultans, were at the top of the standings with six points while Qalandars are languishing in the middle of the table with same number of points in their kitty.
Along with Kings and Qalandars, Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United are also tied on six points each. So the winner of the match on Wednesday will go on the top of the table, albeit provisionally.
The matches have been scheduled to start late in the evening at 8pm UAE time to avoid the scorching heat. But Qalandars’ captain Sohail Akhtar played down talk of the heat taking its toll on their performance.
“As professional cricketers we are used to playing in all kinds of weather and I don’t think it will affect our performance much,” said Akhtar in an online pre-match conference on Tuesday.
The players have advised to use an ice towel around their waist and drink plenty of coconut water to keep themselves hydrated in the scorching heat.
He also ruled out that the three-month break will have much impact on their momentum.
“Of course, it breaks your momentum. But as our foreign players were busy playing international fixtures with their respective teams they are not completely out of the practice and so do we,” he added.
Akhtar, who has an impressive record in Abu Dhabi, is hopeful of repeating his feat once again.
“We will try to repeat our performance and go back with a lot of good memories. I am very excited to be back in Abu Dhabi.
“All the players are doing well in the training and foreign recruits are also gelling with the team nicely. Overall it is very positive atmosphere in the dressing room,” he added.
Akhtar also predicted tough competition in the second leg of the tournament in Abu Dhabi like that of Karachi, which rendered four teams tied on the same points.
“We are expecting the same kind of competition as we experienced in Karachi. All the teams are very strong and well-balanced. And in T20 you cannot underestimate any team. We will try to gain an early momentum that will set the tone for the rest of the tournament. As the team that gets into the groove early will have an advantage,” he explained.
However, Qalandars suffered a huge blow before the start of the tournament when their star all-rounder Shahid Afridi pulled out of the tournament due to an injury.
Meanwhile, United will also look to get their campaign under way with a victory over Qalandars. United are one place above Qalandars by virtue of a better run rate. United had tasted success in their last game of PSL 2021 before the T20 league was halted. Faheem Ashraf claimed 3/11 to restrict Quetta Gladiators to 156 for 7.
They will look to take that momentum into the match against Qalandars.
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