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Writing in his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Fazeer Mohammed praises the Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed for his impressive leadership capabilities as captain as demonstrated by the Champions Trophy triumph, looks forward to the participation of Pakistani players in the upcoming Caribbean Premier League tournament and hopes that the PCB will put in more resources in the development of the Women's game in Pakistan. 

By Fazeer Mohammed (2nd August, 2017)

Cricket’s packed calendar across three formats means there is always something right around the corner, like the 2017 edition of the Caribbean Premier League, or something just ended, like the ICC Women’s World Cup.

Still, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge how wrong I was in the assessment of Sarfaraz Ahmed’s leadership skills during the limited-over leg of Pakistan’s tour of the West Indies three months ago.

During the One-Day Internationals in Guyana, the first of which was won by the home side when they successfully chased a target of over 300 for the first time ever, Sarfaraz was roundly criticised for his handling of the team in the field. His style of being almost constantly in the ears of his teammates and occasionally wagging his index finger like a disapproving schoolmaster seemed to be more like scolding rather than encouraging his teammates.

Yet they rebounded to take that series 2-1, and of infinitely greater significance, went on to shock the cricketing world, lifting the Champions Trophy in June at The Oval with a 180-run thrashing of arch-rivals India after being convincingly beaten by the same opponents at the start of the tournament.

Fittingly Sarfaraz has been named to succeed Misbah-ul-Haq as Test captain, and given the phenomenal success he has just enjoyed in the shorter format of the game, no-one should doubt the ability of this street-fighter to get the best from himself and his teammates, even if the wicketkeeper-batsman’s style is very different from the man he replaces at the helm.

It’s a pity therefore that Sarfaraz will not be involved in the CPL, an event that grows in popularity every year as much for being a welcome distraction from the never-ending woes of the West Indies team as it is for the quality of the cricket played over the five weeks of action, beginning this year in St Lucia on 4th August and concluding with the final at the brand new Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad on 9th September.

As last year when the CPL was played concurrently with the West Indies home series against India, this time the regional team are scheduled to be doing battle in three Tests in England while the biggest names in Caribbean cricket will be entertaining under lights with their respective franchises. Why Cricket West Indies, formerly the West Indies Cricket Board, considers it appropriate to have the CPL overshadowing the West Indies for fans’ attention is anyone’s guess.

But the CPL, now entering a fifth season, is obviously much more than the likes of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine on show for it is the presence of premier international stars, including a healthy contingent of Pakistanis, that have contributed to the global appeal of the five-week competition.

Every champion team so far in the CPL has had a Pakistani input. It will be the same in 2017 with representation in all six franchises.

Imad Wasim’s left-armers will again be vital for title-holders Jamaica Tallawahs who also have the services this season of fast bowler Mohammad Sami. If you’re wondering what “Tallahwahs” means, it is Jamaican dialect for being an over-achiever, for essentially being far more formidable than you might appear.

Shoab Malik’s all-round experience will again be key to the effort of 2014 winners Barbados Tridents. They also have the services of pacer Wahab Riaz which should make for some interesting duels with some of the most explosive hitters in the game. Kamran Akmal was a part of the successful Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel outfit in 2015 but two years later the wicketkeeper-batsman turns out in the sky blue of the St Lucia Stars, formerly the St Lucia Zouks.

In keeping with a relatively new competition that continues to evolve, the Red Steel are now the Trinbago Knight Riders, a change necessitated last year when the franchise was acquired by the Shah Rukh Khan-headed company that also owns the Kolkata Knight Riders. It should be no surprise therefore that Narine, a vital component in KKR’s two Indian Premier League title-winning seasons so far, has now switched from the Guyana Amazon Warriors to Trinbago and will form what could be a match-winning spin pairing with Pakistan’s rising teenage talent Shadab Khan.

However the Warriors retain a strong Pakistani presence in the form of the experienced left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir while Babar Azam will be expected to contribute vital runs and enhance his growing reputation in the middle-order as a late replacement for injured Australian Chris Lynn.

Another Aussie sidelined by injury, Ben Cutting, has opened the door for Champions Trophy “Man of the Tournament” Hasan Ali to make a CPL debut for the St Kitts-Nevis Patriots, who have also acquired the services of another Champions Trophy winner, Mohammad Hafeez, as a late replacement for opening batsman Kieran Powell who will be on West Indies duty in England.

They could be the most inspired signings of all this season.

Speaking of inspiration, Pakistan’s women’s team and the women’s game generally in the country may be low on motivation after finishing at the bottom of the table in the ICC Women’s World Cup in England in July, a tournament won dramatically by the hosts after India fell apart in the final when poised for what looked like a comfortable victory. But it is up to the Pakistan Cricket Board to channel the necessary resources and effort into the female program to ensure that the obvious talent is harnessed in a structured and systematic way. Only then will the results follow.

As for the West Indies, the beaten finalists of 2013 and World T20 holders, we are still awaiting a proper explanation as to why a campaign from which so much was expected could have flopped so badly to the extent that the Women's team was essentially non-competitive against the top five nations.

It remains to be seen now if their male counterparts can fare any better in England.

Discuss!