Pakistan has a proud tradition of producing world-class fast bowlers and another name looks set to join that list.
Akhtar is one of only four bowlers – apart from Aussie quicks Jeff Thomson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait – who have bowled at 100mph (161kph) at international level. The retired pacer said he will monitor Irshad’s progress himself after Akhtar was named mentor for the Qalandars in the third edition of the PSL.
“He is bowling at 92 miles an hour now. He can go up to 97. And if he puts his heart in, can break the 100 miles per hour barrier. I want to train Salman Irshad myself,” Akhtar said during an interview on Pakistan’s GEO News.
Irshad was spotted during a talent hunt conducted by the Qalandars last year in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Former Pakistan fast bowler and Qalandars director cricket operations Aaqib Javed was immediately impressed by what he saw and said Irshad had the potential to represent Pakistan at the highest level.
“I have set a target for him to increase his speed to 150kph. The angle he creates will help him bowl well in the death overs,” Javed was quoted as saying by Pakpassion.net.
With such high praise coming from two of the finest fast bowlers produced by Pakistan, all eyes will surely be on him when the PSL starts in the UAE on February 22.
Irshad was part of Lahore Qalandars’ Rising Stars squad that traveled to Australia for a quadrangular tournament. There he impressed the locals and was signed up by Hawkesbury CC for the rest of the season. Irshad picked up 22 wickets at an average of 12.95 in his first five second division games for Hawkesbury.
Pakistan is known more for its menacing pace bowlers than heavy-scoring batsmen. But that seems to have changed this year, at least in limited overs cricket in the domestic circuit, with Islamabad batsman Abid Ali making the highest List A score by a Pakistan batsman in history.
Ali hit an unbeaten 209 against Peshawar in the ongoing National One Day Cup on Tuesday. He hit 24 boundaries and five sixes during his 156-ball knock.
The 30-year-old Ali is a right-handed wicketkeeper batsman and has been playing domestic cricket since 2005. However, he had scored just one one-day century prior to the double ton on Tuesday.
Ali’s knock helped Islamabad make 374-1 from their 50 overs. That target proved too steep for Peshawar who were bowled out for 141 in 38 overs.
Ali became only the fourth Pakistan batsman to hit a double century in the one-day format. Interestingly, it was the second List A century of 2018 in Pakistan after wicketkeeper batsman Kamran Akmal hit exactly 200 for WAPDA against HBL on January 3.
The previous highest scores in Pakistan List A games were 207 by Mohammad Ali for Customs against DHA in 2005 and an unbeaten 204 by Khalid Latif for Karachi against Quetta in 2009.
It has been an intriguing turnaround in Pakistan’s domestic scene. In 2017, batsmen struggled during the Quaid-e-Azam first-class tournament, with the average first innings score of 235 easily the lowest in the world and only one batsman scoring more than 500 runs at an average of above 50.
However, 2018 has started off on a good note for batsmen, at least in limited-overs cricket.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed defended his aggressive style of captaincy and insisted his players don’t have an issue with his style after the wicketkeeper batsman was criticised in some quarters for losing his cool too often and admonishing his players for almost every indiscretion.
Sarfraz’s behavior came in focus during the second T20 of the recently concluded tour of New Zealand where he walked up to star bowler Hasan Ali after the quick was hit for a boundary as the hosts chased 202, only for the seamer to ignore his captain and continue walking back to his mark.
That incident has become the focal point of discussions surrounding Sarfraz’s leadership. But the man himself played down the incident during a TV interview, insisting such incidents shouldn’t be blown out of proportion as the team understands his intentions.
“Whatever happens in the ground, I don’t do it deliberately. Neither at club level, Under-19 or first-class. Yes, I get a bit too involved in the match. Some people like it, some don’t. I try to make sure my style (of functioning) remains the same),” Sarfraz told Pakistan’s Samaa TV.
“These things happen sometimes but the players are very understanding and they don’t mind it.”
Pakistan become number one in ICC T20 Rankings after defeating New Zealand 2-1 in the series. This is Pakistan's 5th consecutive series win since the WT20 2016 plus a one-off victory in Manchester. Sarfraz Ahmed has never lost a series as captain. #NZvPak— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) January 28, 2018
When asked specifically about the incident with pacer Ali, the gloveman said the 23-year-old is a team man and there are no issues between the two.
“Whatever happened with Hasan Ali, it was a matter of a couple of minutes and ended there. I spoke to him later on as well. There is no issue. It finished then and there and I hope it won’t happen again. Hasan is a team-man and puts his heart and soul into it,” Sarfraz added.
While Pakistan are currently the No1 team in the world in T20 cricket, captain Sarfraz is not exactly feeling on top of the world.
After suffering a sobering 2-0 Test series defeat in the UAE against Sri Lanka, Ahmed oversaw a 5-0 thrashing in the recent ODI series in New Zealand before his side fought back in the subsequent T20 series to register a 2-1 win.