KARACHI: Legendary off-spinner Saeed Ajmal has said he hopes the entire Pakistan Super League (PSL) takes place in Pakistan from next year.
The third edition of the country’s cash-rich T20 league will begin from February 22 in the UAE, whereas the final will be played on March 25 at the National Stadium of Karachi. The first two editions of the league was also organised in the UAE.
It is the first time that more than a single match of the league is scheduled to be played in Pakistan, with last year’s final being the first match to make it back home.
Ajmal — who represented Pakistan in 35 Tests, 113 ODIs and 64 T20Is — is currently associated with PSL franchise Islamabad United as a spin-bowling coach and believes hosting the tournament in Pakistan will greatly benefit all stakeholders.
“I want the whole of the PSL to be organised in Pakistan since it can be really beneficial for the country and the sport,” said Ajmal, while talking to The Express Tribune. “The crowds will finally get to see their stars playing in front of them, the sponsors will get increased exposure and hosting a successful PSL at home will help completely revive international cricket in the country. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved and I really hope we have the whole of PSL in Pakistan from next year.”
‘Islamabad more balanced this time around’
Ajmal has warned Islamabad’s PSL rivals that the winners of the first edition are even stronger this time around since they boast a much more balanced side.
“We have signed a few good players and our focus was on recruiting quality all-rounders,” he said. “Andre Russell’s return will surely boost us, while the likes of Alex Hales, JP Duminy and Luke Ronchi can play an important role as well. Nothing is certain in cricket but our team looks very good on paper.”
Ajmal the coach
The United job is Ajmal’s first in coaching and he believes he can help the youngsters improve a lot. “I will try to help youngsters with all the experience that I have,” said Ajmal, who will also be working closely with spin sensation Shadab Khan. “Our players, especially the spinners, have enough quality and experience to perform and deliver, but I will try to add a few more tricks to their armory.”
However, Ajmal was non-committal about his chances of becoming a full-time coach in the future. “This is my first assignment as a coach and I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “I don’t know right now if the field of coaching is the right one for me but I am going to give it my best. If I feel like this is the right line of work for me, then I will take up some coaching courses as well. In cricket, you must always learn new things and that is just as vital for a coach as it is for a player.”
‘Waqar able replacement for Wasim’
United head into the tournament shorn of mentor Wasim Akram, who has joined the Multan Sultan dugout, but Ajmal is not too worried about Wasim’s departure, stating that the incoming Waqar Younis can do just as good a job.
“We will of course miss Wasim but he is replaced by Waqar, who was also a legendary pacer and has a great coaching resume. His being part of the United setup is sure to help the pacers.”
Need to groom leaders
43-year-old United captain Misbahul Haq is the oldest skipper in the PSL and Ajmal knows it will soon be time for the right-handed batsman to call time on an incredible career. It is therefore vital, he argues, that young players are groomed to be leaders in the future.
“I don’t think there is any local player in the current squad right now who can replace Misbah,” he said. “[Fast-bowler] Rumman Raees has been named the vice-captain and hopefully he can turn into a real leader in the future. We should also be looking to groom several youngsters since this will help Pakistan cricket because every team needs several leaders out there on the pitch. The PSL can be used by the franchises to experiment.”
Going out with no regrets
Ajmal, who recently retired from the game, said he has no regrets about his playing career and thanked his fans for supporting him throughout.
“I am thankful for all the success I have had in my career, and I am extremely pleased with my achievements,” said the former world number one bowler. “I don’t think any player has achieved as much success in as short a time as I did, so I don’t have any regret nor do I have any hard feelings against anyone. I want to once again thank my friends, family and fans for all the support they gave me throughout my career. And now my only focus is the spin-coaching job with United.”