Quetta Gladiators opener Ahmed Shehzad believes the candid, open atmosphere of their dressing room has played a major role in the team’s impressive performances which saw them qualify for the final of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) after defeating Peshawar Zalmi in a thrilling play-off on Friday.
Talking to The Express Tribune after their nervy one-run win over Peshawar, Shehzad revealed that the owners of the Quetta franchise have promoted an extremely friendly environment which has allowed the players to gel in together.
“The management has strived to create a really good atmosphere in the dressing room which is certainly helping us do well on a consistent basis,” said Shehzad. “Whether it be [head coach] Moin Khan, [mentor Sir] Vivian Richards, [manager] Azam Khan or [skipper] Sarfraz Ahmed, everyone tries their level best to be as supportive as possible and that helps the players play their natural game.”
The 24-year-old also lauded the experienced duo of Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara for the positive influence they have on the team.
“We have Pietersen and Sangakkara who are helping us out and that not only gets you great advice, it also makes you a better and more responsible player,” he added.
Quetta were asked to bat first and gave a target of 134 as a 79-run stand between Pietersen and Sangakkara helped their side post a competitive total. All-rounder Nawaz chipped in with a useful 20, while Peshawar’s Wahab Riaz took three wickets and Shaun Tait two.
In reply, Zalmi fell just two runs short of the target as they were able to post 132-9 in 20 overs as Nawaz and Grant Elliot ran riot to take three wickets apiece, while Aizaz Cheema successfully defended eight runs and took two crucial wickets — Hasan Ali (five) and Wahab (22) — in the last over and Ahmed had special praise for Cheema.
“Cheema made a strong comeback despite being a little off colour in the innings,” said Shehzad. “This is the beauty of T20 cricket that just one over can take the game away from you. Cheema showed great courage because he wasn’t having the best of days but held his nerve to bowl the final over under intense pressure.”
Shehzad believes that the Quetta outfit certainly has what it takes to lift the inaugural T20 league and credits the chemistry between the players as the stand-out feature of his side.
“We all trust each other’s abilities and that helps us out in critical situations,” he added. “This is really important because when you don’t trust each other then you can’t progress. This is where our team stands out.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2016.