In exclusive remarks to PakPassion.net, Shahzaib Hasan spoke about his team’s determination to reach the top, his experience of playing alongside some top players and the importance to Pakistan cricket of the PSL final which will be played on home soil.
By Amir Husain (1st March, 2017)
The 2017 Pakistan Super League has now entered a decisive stage with the top four teams vying to qualify for the final in Lahore on the 5th of March. One of the teams looking to make a mark after a rather disappointing first edition of Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 tournament is Karachi Kings. Lead by the vastly experienced Kumar Sangakkara in the ongoing tournament, the Karachi team is now brimming with confidence on the back of some excellent performances.
The twenty-seven-year-old Shahzaib Hasan is playing his second edition of the PSL for Karachi and in exclusive remarks to PakPassion.net, spoke about his team's determination to reach the top, his experience of playing alongside some top players in the tournament and the importance to Pakistan cricket of the PSL final which will be played on home soil.
With a team of top quality players that Karachi have assembled for the PSL, it is understandable that competition for places is tight. For Shahzaib, this meant that he could only play in two games so far. However, as a committed professional, he has taken this in stride and concentrated on ensuring that he makes the most of the opportunity to learn from the best as he explained, “it’s been an amazing experience playing and practicing alongside some world-class players in the shape of our captain Sangakkara and Chris Gayle as well as some very talented young players. It is unfortunate that I have not played enough games in this tournament as I believe I could have done better with more opportunities due to my excellent domestic record. But then, this is a team game and the right combination of the team is what matters in the end. So, I am content to sit the games out and happy that Karachi Kings have come this far and can go further in this final round.”
The experience of playing a tournament of such high intensity is obviously a great one for any player but the heartening part of the PSL is to see teams come together to enjoy each other’s company which is something that has impressed Shahzaib as well.
“The team spirit is amazing and we are all focused towards taking the team to the top. The last year wasn’t that great for us at the PSL but this time we seemed to have turned it around despite a slow start which is very exciting for all of us. All we want to do is to continue enjoying playing as a team and keep on winning our next games and then lift the trophy, InshaAllah.”
With a hundred Twenty20 appearances, Shahzaib is by no means a newbie when it comes to this high-octane style of cricket. What is heartening is to see that even having scored over two-thousand-and five-hundred runs in this format of the game, the right-handed batsman still feels he has a great deal to learn from his illustrious team-mates as he stated, “Sangakkara is truly a legend of the game and Chris Gayle’s name is enough to make any team strong. I have had a lot of things to learn from both. They explained how to play under pressure, under different conditions and how to assess the bowling to get the most out of any situation. These are the types of lessons that only such experts can teach you and I was lucky to be able to gain that knowledge from such excellent players.”
Apart from star-players on their register, Karachi Kings are also lucky to have the Pakistan Head Coach Mickey Arthur as well as bowling coach Azhar Mahmood as part of their coaching staff. For Shahzaib, the association with Mickey Arthur goes back to the first edition of the PSL and he continues to be impressed by Karachi Kings Head Coach.
“This was the second time I have worked with Mickey and all I can say is that working with someone so qualified and experienced is simply amazing from a players’ point of view. Apart from coaching Pakistan he has also coached some of the top teams of the world and having someone of his calibre pay attention to you as a player is really something. Not only Mickey, but having Azhar Mahmood who himself is a well-established batsman was also beneficial for me as he has played all over the world and his advice was excellent. I am hoping that I can apply some of what Azhar taught me in the future.”
A true judgement on the quality of the PSL tournament in 2017 cannot ignore the darker aspects of the ‘fixing’ scandal which broke out on the second day of the tournament. Shahzaib Hasan’s own involvement in the affair as a whistle-blower became well known but as far as he is concerned, this is something which his team and he did not dwell on for too long, “The whole issue was sad and we did not pay much attention to it as the main aim of our presence at the PSL was to win the tournament. We had our own issues with a slow start which was a bit of a wake-up call for us at the start of the tournament. Our team management did not let us worry too much about what was happening around us in regard to this issue and we got on with our job.”
With the likes of Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen expected to unleash a flood of runs, it may have gone unnoticed that Shahzaib Hasan himself has a strong track record in power-hitting. His belligerent innings of 171 from just 117 balls in the Regional One-Day cup in late January of this year simply reinforced his reputation as a hard-hitting run-getter. It is, therefore, strange in Shahzaib’s view that much is being made of the lack of such players in the Pakistan line-up, “Whether your hitting comes off on a certain day is really down to what happens in that innings but I don’t agree that Pakistan lacks such type of batsmen. You have to look for and identify such players and the main idea is to give a consistent run to a player because only then can we develop such players.”
The announcement that the PSL 2017 final will be held in Pakistan on the 5th of March has been met with mixed feelings from different quarters. However, as a player who has not seen international cricket on home soil for many years, Shahzaib is delighted about the prospects of such a top-level cricketing contest being played in Lahore as he explained, “The PSL final in Lahore will bring joy to the faces of our cricket-mad fans. As a player, there is very little that compares to playing in front of our doting fans and InshaAllah, the final will be a great occasion for all of us. Of course, it will mean much more if Karachi qualify for the final and we can lift the trophy in Lahore. If playing such a high-profile game with some international players can also introduce international cricket to Pakistan then that would be the proudest day for all of us”, he concluded.