SYDNEY: Few years ago, Maaz Khan was wandering on the streets of Bajaur with dreams of playing cricket for Pakistan, but had no way to realise them.
Last week, he represented Pakistan Super League side Lahore Qalandars in a five-team competition in Sydney, Australia.
“I had never dreamt of coming out of Bajaur, let alone playing in Australia,” Maaz told Geo.tv in Sydney.
“It’s all because of Lahore Qalandars who brought me here, before coming to Australia I also played in Abu Dhabi. These two tours changed my life,” he said.
Maaz was one of the 16 cricketers who were picked by the Lahore Qalandars for the player development programme this year. The programme not only provided these players to play against top teams in UAE and Australia, but also gave them an opportunity to impress teams around the world.
Two of them, Farzan Raja and Ahsan Mirza, grabbed this opportunity well by earning contract from Cricket Tasmania.
“This is the success of our player development programme,” said Sameen Rana, COO of Lahore Qalandars while talking to this correspondent.
The player development programme is a unique talent hunt, which isn’t limited to finding talent; it ensures that a player gets a proper chance to enhance their skills by playing proper top-level cricket.
Their recent tour to Australia was also part of players development programme where they played the Quin Series and finished third, ahead of two big bash teams Sydney Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes after losing to Sydney Thunders in the play-off.
Before that, they defeated Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunders in first round but got beaten by Auckland Aces before the game against Hobart was washed out.
Aqib Javed, Qalandars Director Cricket Operations and one of the leading forces behind the development program, says that this training is close to his heart as it’s giving something back to Pakistan.
“I have won a cricket world cup, have won U19 World Cup as coach, but this programme is very special and close to my heart,” Aqib said.
“These boys were nowhere but today they are playing against the top teams. This is very significant,” he said.
For the players, the programme is life changing.
The Australia tour was a real test for the batsmen in the squad. While they struggled to score on board, they gained an experience which will always benefit them.
“It’s not easy to bat here, the conditions here are totally different from what we get at home,” said batsman Mohammad Faizan.
“But touring here at this stage of career has made us realise how things are in Australia which will help us improve,” he added with a promise of doing better in future by learning from the mistakes of this tour.
Farzan Raja, who earned a contract in Australia during his stint there for Quin Series stated that Lahore Qalandars provided him something that he always dreamt of.
One can firmly say that cricket authorities in Pakistan can learn from this player development programme model to unearth talent and transform players into great performers.