HBL PSL has given name and hope to little known players, says Sohail Akhtar
Sharjah, 21 February 2019:
The HBL Pakistan Super League has given a new hope to little known players from remote areas, those who have no chance of making it big at the domestic circuit, said Lahore Qalandar’s Sohail Akhtar.
The 32-year-old has emerged as a hard hitting batsman for Lahore Qalandars, he has now been given a role as an opener in the fourth edition of the HBL PSL this year.
Among the six franchise, Lahore Qalandars stand out in unearthing unknown players like Salman Irshad, Haris Rauf and Sohail Akhtar and developed them under their programme, taking the greenhorns to Australia for further grooming.
Despite making his first class debut in 2013 and a bit of performance of note in the National Twenty20, Sohail only earned a name through PSL 2018 where he came with a reputation of being a clean hitter. But coming down low in the order, he got limited chances.
This year he has been given a new role of opening the innings with Fakhar Zaman. That has provided Sohail to finally started to live up to his potential.
“I used to call players from my region (Abbottabad) for trials but they were so disheartened that they would instantly refuse, saying that its a waste of time and money,” recalls Sohail.
“But since the start of the HBL PSL and the emergence of players like Haris, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and others they are now willing to come for trials. HBL PSL has given a new hope to unknown players from remote areas,” said Sohail.
“Now I get calls every day with players saying that they want to give trials,” said an excited Sohail. “By the emergence of players like Haris Rauf all the little known players now have hope. If there was no PSL there would have been no such thing.”
The dashing batsman from Abbottabad smashed 37 and 39 in quick time in the first two matches and promises more in the tournament.
Sohail praised the management of Lahore for unearthing raw talent.
“Particularly franchise like Lahore has worked very well,” said Sohail. “Look at the way Haris came to the fore and a lot of players now come for the trials because they have hope that if Haris can make it then any other player can make it big.”
Sohail too started at lower level.
“I started playing cricket from district Haripur and then played for Abbottabad. Then I played from Candy Land and National Twenty20 from Abbottabad. But after some time I left cricket and did some office work.
Then one day my coach Ayaz Yousuf Zai called me and told me that Aaqib Javed (former Pakistan paceman and head coach of Lahore Qalanadars) wanted to take my trial. I was initially reluctant. I was not willing to go but then I gave it a try.
“Aaqib Bhai praised me and said that I play well and put me in the Qalanadars’ DHA Academy. He prepared me and worked six to seven hours on me every day as my physical fitness was zero so he worked hard on me and got me ready for HBL PSL,” recalls Sohail.
Last year’s HBL PSL gave little chance to Sohail as he would come to bat in the last few overs but this year he has been given the task to open.
“I used to bat lower down the order. I had never opened the innings. But it is an idea of Aaqib and Sameen Rana. I was tagged as slogger and in the first PSL I used to get two to three overs to bat.
“So Aaqib and Sameen decided that I have talent and I can do well.”
Sohail, who has a strike rate of 130.46 in 38 domestic T20 matches, said HBL PSL has given him a big opportunity to learn from local and foreign players.
“I have learnt a lot and have enjoyed playing in the HBL PSL, “he admits. “PSL gives us an opportunity to share the dressing room with some great players. How they practice and how they behave on and off the field. They tell us, what we used to miss, so we have got to learn that by playing in the HBL PSL.
“When I played domestic cricket there was no cricket in Pakistan but the HBL PSL has given us everything.”
Despite age not on his side, Sohail harbours hope of a place in the national team.
“The target is always to play for Pakistan,” said Sohail. “Even if you are playing for a club you have that aim and that fire to play for Pakistan.
“I am giving my hundred percent and if there is a chance I want to play for Pakistan.”