KARACHI: Lahore Qalandars is one unique team of Pakistan Super League (PSL) which despite finishing on the bottom in all three seasons, remains the favourite of fans and one of the most exciting and most discussed teams of the league.
The team, despite having some big names in past, couldn’t do well on the field, but their phenomenal off the field activities remained unmatched.
With the fourth season of PSL now days away, Qalandars have set eyes on a changed fortune on PSL tables as management of team says that last three years of the league were a great learning experience for them.
Sameen Rana, the chief operating officer of Lahore Qalandars says the last three seasons were huge learning for all of the franchises but especially for Qalandars.
“Results at the end shows that we were on the bottom at tables, but in my personal opinion, it is not the true reflection of Qalandars’ journey. We played several close matches that we could have won. We learned a lot with our experience on the field, we played exciting matches,” he said while talking about team’s performances in last three seasons.
Rana agrees that for the time being losing close matches was hurtful, but despite that, he and his management didn’t lose confidence in players.
Citing the example of 2018 season, Sameen said that despite losing first six games the team looked united and didn’t give up easily and kept on fighting to keep the tournament alive.
“We believe in a win via proper process, we don’t want to win via fluke. We wanted to work at grass root and build a proper team. We have now got a team with which we are truly comfortable and hoping that things will now turn around for us on points table as well,” he said.
Many believe that Qalandars was let down by its big names. It had Chris Gayle in the first season who couldn’t deliver, it had Brendon McCullum for the second and third season but he couldn’t contribute much. They had Chris Lynn for the third season but he withdrew due to an injury before the season.
“I won’t say that players didn’t give their best but at the end of they, their efforts didn’t contribute in winning-cause. Qalandars were let down, and whatever our expectations were, it never came true,” he said.
“I am not doubting their credibility or intention, but it none of the big name in past could do good for Lahore,” he added.
Although Qalandars was let down by big names in past, this year they have some big names as well and the list is topped by South African AB de Villiers. However, Qalandars aren’t depending on AB only.
According to Sameen, the learning of the last three seasons has taught the Qalandars that they shouldn’t be depending on only one player.
“Qalandars chances can be improved only due to team combination and their performance. This time we have a very balanced squad, Mohammad Hafeez has very good knowledge of local cricketers. Along with that, this year is also going to be a test for players who we have developed; the local boys who have a journey with LQ will be the nucleus of our team,” he said.
“Obviously, AB and Hafeez will be important and running the thing, but defining role will be of our young local players,” he added.
Qalandars are also playing a rookie Haris Rauf in PSL this season. A fast bowler from Rawalpindi who was picked from Lahore Qalandars Player Development Program and was later sent to Australia for further development.
Sameen feels that Rauf is now fully ready to play at a top level cricket.
“Salman Irshad went through a process of the player development program and played for us last year and this year we have Harris Rauf who has gone through the same development program.
“To play a player directly in PSL just after talent hunt would be unfair to these players as well, we didn’t want to overexpose players who came through PDP,” he said.
The player development program is something which makes a franchise that stands out from others. Sameen says that the program is actually the process he mentioned earlier through which they aim to achieve success.
“In the first PSL season, we had emerging category players who were in their 30s and people had said that this is the only talent pool we have. At that time we had decided to hunt our own talent, but finding talent wasn’t the only aim, we wanted to transform them into proper performers,” he said.
“We talent-hunted players, formed their teams, made them play a tournament which was broadcasted on Geo Super and then for further development we sent them to Australia. This was all part of a process to transform talent into a performer,” Rana highlighted.
Sameen also spoke about how Qalandars played a part in transforming Shaheen Shah Afridi and Fakhar Zaman into what they’re today.
“We are proud of them,” Sameen said while talking about the duo from Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He said that Brendon McCullum, who was Lahore Qalandars captain, played a very important role in giving this two much-needed confidence when they were down.
“I believe that we have a little contribution as well in their development,” he said.
Talking about PSL as a product, Sameen who’s a chartered accountant by profession, said that the league has played an important role in the revival of international Cricket in Pakistan.
“This wouldn’t have been easy for Pakistan to bring cricket back if there was no PSL,” Sameen said.
“Franchises deserve all credit for making this credit, especially the five who first risked their hard-earned money on this product. Franchises have very huge contributions despite suffering losses,” Rana explained.