Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Asghar may be household names now but only two weeks ago both were categorised as anonymous ’emerging cricketers’.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) and a series of match-winning performances for the Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi catapulted the two players into the limelight and immediately the country rejoiced for having discovered their newest ‘stars’.
Spinners Nawaz and Asghar are currently among the top five bowlers with most wickets in the PSL, but before the league is hailed as a ‘big success’, Pakistan must take stock of what really ails the game, according to the great Abdul Qadir.
Qadir, the legendary Pakistan legspinner, said the promise of the PSL would be hollow if the league failed in producing five ‘decent’ batsmen, which the national team ‘desperately lacked’.
“Pakistan must realise that it has been naturally blessed with great bowlers. Show me five good local batsmen at the end of the PSL and I will concede that the league was successful,” Qadir said in an interview with Dawn.
“Otherwise, it [PSL] is just an eyewash to divert the attention of the fans from what is really wrong with Pakistan cricket.”
Currently the PSL charts are ruled by the imports with Ravi Bopara (England), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh) and Cameron Delport (South Africa) leading the way followed by Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal.
According to the 60-year-old, who is credited with reviving the art of leg spin in the 70s and 80s, the PSL could have waited for a bit longer for Pakistan to really iron out the bigger issues ‘dragging the game down in the country’.
“We were ousted from the  World Cup, lost 3-0 to Bangladesh and then begged Zimbabwe to visit Pakistan. Then there were promises that the PSL would be held in Pakistan.”
“It seems like everything has been swept under the carpet,” an exasperated Qadir added.
‘Does the PCB really have a plan?’
Qadir also questioned the wisdom of appointing former captains Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja as ambassadors and also letting them take other roles in the league. Akram is the Cricket Director for Islamabad United while Raja is serving as television commentator.
“Can the two [Akram and Raja] really be expected to play their part?”
According to Qadir, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should have had a plan to truly realise the potential of the league and make it a platform for young local players.
“The Board should have played young local wicketkeepers in every team and they would surely have found one for the future. I personally would have also named upcoming players as the captain of the PSL teams since Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq will be retiring soon.
“I don’t understand how you would find local talent when investors want their team to win. They will play their best team. Why would they rely on emerging or upcoming talent?”
Qadir’s views echoed the sentiments of Pakistan head coach Waqar Younis who was clearly upset at the Asia Cup T20 and World T20 squad members not being given enough chances in the PSL.
“I don’t know what the cricket board can do because after all this is a commercial entity and franchises have their own businesses and requirements,” Waqar said in an interview on Saturday.
“But it would be good if the players picked in the squad for the Asia Cup and World T20 events are given chances to play in the PSL.”
“I am a bit surprised that Babar Azam is not playing in all matches and Mohammad Irfan is not being tested out fully,” Waqar said.
With three more games until the playoffs, the PSL has gradually picked up steam with Afridi’s Peshawar Zalmi and Sarfraz Ahmed’s Quetta Gladiators leading the points table.
The final of the league will be played on February 23 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.