KARACHI: While Lahore is more famously known for its rich history, delicious food and centuries-old traditions, there is another force gathering momentum in becoming part of the city’s identity — Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Lahore Qalandars.
Pakistan cricket is indebted to Lahore for providing a string of superstars in the past — which include the likes of the legendary Wasim Akram and Mohammad Yousuf — and Qalandars, in addition to becoming the face of cricket in the city, are looking forward to adding to that long list.
Qalandars’ on-the-field performance has not been that impressive in the last two editions, with the team failing to reach the playoffs both times — the only team to do so — and while that could be a cause for concern for any team, franchise director Faisal Mirza, is quite happy with the way the team is progressing.
“As a franchise, the primary objective was much more than just winning or losing,” said Mirza. “Winning in the PSL was never our only target. We always believed that helping Pakistan cricket is the main goal and our track record suggests we are doing really well there.”
Talking about how Qalandars are really helping the sport in this country, Mirza said: “The reason behind the selection of Brendon McCullum as the captain after the team’s poor first edition showing was to groom the younger players under his leadership.”
He further added, “We then went to eight different regions, conducted trials of over 125,000 players, selected a handful of them and then carried out a successful tournament which allowed those players to prove themselves on the big stage. We are the only franchise to have picked all supplementary players this way.”
Player development plays a massive role in improving youngsters’ abilities to succeed, and Mirza claims that Qalandars take it very seriously. “For us, player development is the most important thing,” he said. “We’ve invested heavily to ensure our academy, which can accommodate up to 18 players at one time, has all the facilities to assist in the development of these players.”
Qalandars became the first and the only side yet to strike a deal with an international T20 outfit — the Sydney Sixers from the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia — in which both teams agreed to play practice matches against each other and Mirza believes that move will pay heavy dividends in the years to come.
“The motive of the deal was to give more exposures to the youngsters. When you play with the best, and that too in Australian conditions, you are bound to improve and we are hopeful that you will start seeing results in the future,” he said.
Qalandars also purchased a Global T20 League franchise in South Africa — Durban Qalandars — and Mirza revealed that it was their efforts to groom youngsters in Pakistan which impressed Cricket South Africa (CSA) representatives the most.
“When we met CSA representatives, we showed them what we did in Pakistan and they were really impressed and that’s where the discussion of buying the franchise begun. Going into this league, our core motive remains the same — which is to help Pakistan cricket. We will train our youngsters with players from Durban Qalandars and you will see the difference in the future,” he said.
Talking about future plans, Mirza said that the Qalandars are looking to increase the capacity of their academy. “We want to become a major force in Pakistan cricket and in order to do so we are looking to increase the capacity of the academy as well,” he revealed. “We also held trials in Azad Kashmir as we sensed they felt alienated from the rest of the country and our plan is to get more players from there to our academy.”
(Edited by Taimoor Siddiqui)