Pakistan confirm Karachi as venue for T20 series against the West Indies next month

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Pakistan’s cricket chief on Sunday confirmed three Twenty20 internationals with the West Indies in Karachi early next month, taking a giant step towards reviving international series amid improved security in the country.

Pakistan had been a no-go zone for international teams since a 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus which killed eight people and left seven visiting players injured.

Pakistan hosted two Twenty20 and three one-day internationals against Zimbabwe in 2015. Last year’s final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), three T20 internationals against a World XI and a T20 international match against Sri Lanka in the country helped convince the West Indies to visit the subcontinent.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said the West Indies have confirmed the series.

“It’s a good news that West Indies have confirmed three Twenty20 internationals to be played in Karachi on April 1, 2 and 4,” Sethi said in Dubai on the sidelines of the ongoing third edition of the PSL.

West Indies are the reigning World Twenty20 champions after winning the title in India in 2016.

Earlier, Lahore was announced as the venue of the West Indies matches but the PCB was encouraged to host the matches outside Lahore after Karachi was declared safe by international security experts last month.

Karachi will also host the PSL final on March 25, while Lahore will host two play-off games on March 20 and 21.

“That is how we intend to put Karachi back on cricket map once again. PSL final and now three more games for Karachi as per routine. Karachi people should welcome this,” said Sethi of Karachi, where the last international was a Test match against Sri Lanka in February 2009.

Sethi also announced he was in talks with West Indies board for a Twenty20 tri-series in United States.

“While West Indies tour to Pakistan is a one-off series, we are also in consultation with the West Indies board on a tri-series, also involving Bangladesh in first year, for a period of five years,” said Sethi.

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Wasim Akram: Urging players to fight hard but stay within limits

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The Multan Sultan's team-director has a word of advice for the players.

Pakistan great Wasim Akram has seen it all in his illustrious career. A World Cup win, hat-tricks, captaincy and more than 900 international wickets. Being an all-time great left-arm fast bowler, Akram has had his fair share of on-field skirmishes with the opposition. But he has always known where to draw the line.

That can’t be said about a couple of players fighting it out in the ongoing South Africa-Australia Test series. The row between Aussie opener David Warner and Proteas glovesman Quinton de Kock has divided the cricketing world into two significant factions – one that believes sledging has always been a part of the game and the other that thinks things have got out of hand.

Both Australia and South Africa have accused each other of crossing the line and cricket followers have their own take on what is acceptable and what isn’t.

But Akram is a firm believer in one of the oldest diktats in cricket – what happens on the field should stay on it.

The former Pakistan captain believes sledging has always been a part of the game but the biggest rule of all is that it should end with the day’s play and not spill outside the ground.

“We used to have a go at batsmen as well. And there were stump microphones. But that was (ended) there and then. After six o’clock, shake hands, have a cup of tea after the game, have a laugh,” Akram told Sport360 in Dubai.

Akram admits things are said on the field and that is what makes cricket, especially Tests, unique.

“Do whatever you want to do. As a pacer you have the aggression, as a batsman you have patience. That’s the beauty of the game, being a top batsman and a bowler. But whatever you say and whatever you do should stay on the field,” the left-arm pace legend said.

However, the current team director of PSL side Multan Sultans said like in every other sphere of life, there are certain boundaries you are not allowed to cross. “You can’t get personal,” he opined.

The unique nature of Test cricket is something that is very close to Akram’s heart. Which is why he was surprised when the Indian cricket board gave white-ball specialists Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan the top-most contract according to their latest grade system, rewarding them substantially more than Test specialists like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Akram was surprised by BCCI's latest contract system for the Indian team.

Akram was surprised by BCCI’s latest contract system for the Indian team.

At a time when Test cricket is struggling to keep pace with T20s, the decision to put India’s Test specialists in the lower category of contracts sends wrong signals to long format players – a sentiment shared by Akram.

“Test specialists should (get more). Because that’s the most difficult cricket,” Akram said.

The 51-year-old pointed to the fact that players put their bodies on the line in Test cricket and there has to be a clear reward for those who show discipline to excel in the toughest format.

“That’s where you get hit by bouncers, you get hit on your head, on your fingers as a batsman. Bowlers bowl longer spells.

“That’s where the mindset of those who run cricket boards (matters). They should realise Test cricket is the ultimate and everything else follows,” Akram added.

In the BCCI‘s new contract system, limited-overs regulars Rohit and Shikhar find themselves in the A+ category, which is worth rupees 70 million ($1m).

Most of India’s Test specialists now find themselves in the new A category. It includes Test spinners Ashwin and Jadeja and batsmen Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay.

For Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara and Vijay, the value of their contract has jumped from 20 to 50 million rupees. But they are well behind Rohit and Dhawan, whose contract value has risen from 10 and five million rupees respectively to 70 million rupees.

MULTAN ON THE RISE

Multan Sultans are enjoying a brilliant start to their PSL stint, sitting pretty in the table and looking good to go all the way. The latest entrants to the T20 league are led by two experienced heads – captain Shoaib Malik and coach Tom Moody. Being the most expensive team in the league, all eyes were on the Sultans in their inaugural season. And they have surprised everyone by getting their game plan spot on from the outset.

Multan director Akram says he is just overseeing proceedings. It’s Malik and Moody who are doing all the tough work.

The 1992 World Cup-winner said the main reason behind the consistent performances is having a stable leadership at the top.

“I can’t say I knew this was going to happen. But I knew I have a very good team. And a very good captain. One of the most successful T20 captains. He talks sense. And with Tom Moody there, everything is clear. They know what to do. I am a cricket director, everything is done by Tom Moody and Shoaib Malik. The dressing room is very calm.”

Akram has praised the leadership at Multan Sultans.

Akram has praised the leadership at Multan Sultans. Credit – @xeeshanqayyum Twitter

There is another development this PSL that has caught the eye. The top run scorers and wicket takers in this edition of the league are genuine veterans of the game.

The batsman to have crossed the 200-run mark this season are Shane Watson (36 years), Kumar Sangakkara (40) and Malik (36). Among the bowlers, Imran Tahir (38 years), Mohammad Sami (37) and Mohammad Irfan (35) are among the top five wicket takers.

While T20 was once said to be a game made for and by the younger generation, senior players have shown that strong basics and simple techniques can make a difference in T20 cricket as well. Especially in venues like Sharjah and Dubai where batting is not always easy in the beginning of the year.

“If you have the right mindset and basics are right you can excel. When T20 started ten years ago, they started saying it’s a young generation’s game, it’s not a spinner’s game. In two years they realised experience matters, spinners matter,” Akram said.

Wasim Akram spoke to Sport360 at an event in Dubai announcing his partnership with cricket content provider CricInGif. Akram will provide specific tips on bowling and cricket in general on the online platform.

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Pakistan pacer Mohammad Asif to play tennis ball cricket in the UAE

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Cricket followers will see Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Asif in a new avatar this month with news that the 35-year-old right-arm pacer will participate in a tennis ball cricket tournament in the UAE.

Asif tested the best batsmen in the world at the highest level before his fall from grace following the 2010 Lord’s Test spot-fixing scandal.

Asif was banned from the game for five years for his part in the scandal that also involved Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir. While Amir is back in the senior team, Asif and Butt await their chance.

Asif has returned to domestic cricket in Pakistan and Asif was on Saturday unveiled as a ‘key player’ in the second edition of 10PL which will be held from March 19-23 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Asif will turn out for Shehenshah Warriors, part of 16 teams that will participate in the tournament.

Asif who has played 23 Tests, 38 ODIs and 11 T20s for Pakistan, is hoping to make an impact in the 10-over tournament.

“I have played this form of cricket a lot on the streets of Pakistan. Almost all of us have learned a lot by playing this brand of cricket. I am hoping to pass on my experience to the rest of the squad and along the way, gain a lot myself. I cannot wait to get back on the field at the Sharjah Stadium,’’ said Asif.

In the first edition of 10PL, former Pakistan wicket-keeper batsman Zulqarnain Haider tried his hand at professional tennis cricket.

This year apart from Asif, other international players like Sri Lanka’s Thilan Thushara and Chamara Silva are also likely to feature in the tournament. From India, a number of players who have played domestic Ranji Trophy are listed in squads, alongside former Rajasthan Royals paceman Kamran Khan.

The tournament is the brainchild of UAE-based Petromann Events. The tournament boasts the highest prize money for tennis ball cricket anywhere in the world at Dh250,000.

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