LAHORE: Imad Wasim, who has played 58 T20Is for Pakistan, will captain 2020 champions Karachi Kings, Mohammad Rizwan will hope to inspire Multan Sultans to their third successive final, while Shadab Khan will attempt to make Islamabad United the most successful HBL PSL franchise by winning the title for the third time.
Rizwan will feature in the opening match of the HBL PSL 8 when his side will take on defending champions Lahore Qalandars in Multan on 13 February, Imad will be in action on 14 February when he will go head to head with Babar Azam-captained Peshawar Zalmi in Karachi, while Shadab will walk out for the toss for the first time in 2023 with Imad in Karachi on 16 February.
The three champion cricketers spoke candidly with PCB Digital on wide-ranging cricket-related matters and also previewed the tournament, which will culminate in Lahore on 19 March.
Imad Wasim: “HBL PSL is one of the best leagues in the world, which is very close to our hearts. We wait for this league for 10 months during which we prepare, plan and set goals. Then, we enter into this great event to achieve our collective objectives, help our sides win and this cycle continues.
“Last year, Karachi Kings were hampered with injuries, but for 2023, we have all bases covered with high-quality players who all are match-winners. The most important thing for us is to play T20 the way it should be played, which is with a positive attitude and aggressive intent.
“We will go step-by-step and match-by-match in this tournament with our first target being to secure a place in the play-offs. One of the best things about this HBL PSL is we will have home matches. So, we are aiming to make the best use of our first five matches at home and build the momentum that can carry us into the play-offs.
“This year, every side is equally balanced and it is difficult to predict an outright winner. All sides boast some outstanding talent and they will enter the event with different combinations and strengths. This clearly reflects how the HBL PSL has evolved and why it has now become an extremely challenging and exciting league.”
Mohammad Rizwan: “I missed few matches in the early part of the HBL PSL, but I will not blame anyone. It is all part of the game as each side has its own strategy and game plan, but I am now giving importance to each match I play so that I can make up for the lost time. Captaincy and batting can be challenging, but we have a good group of people who have not only empowered me but also back and support me so that I can strike the right balance and continue to give my best.
“The philosophy of Multan Sultans is simple: play as champions irrespective of the opposition or the outcome. Consequently, we are not afraid of the results. We have been able to induce this approach in the side because we are a closely-knit side and the credit for this cohesion must be given to the team management. Also, we have a good mix and combination of coaches, which also helps me to captain the side.
“It is always challenging to face Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali. And this doesn’t only apply to me but to all the batters as they are seriously quick and effective bowlers with plenty of variety. But it works both ways as we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, they have a slight advantage as they have more opportunities to stage a comeback and dismiss the batters, but they are difficult bowlers for all batters across the globe.”
Shadab Khan: “What I am today is solely due to HBL PSL. I entered in this competition as an Emerging Category player, but this tournament gave me the opportunity, belief and confidence to grow and develop as a cricketer and I am pleased that I am now a Platinum Category player.
“When I started my cricket, I thought I could be a good U19 or domestic cricketer, but then I got the opportunity in HBL PSL 1 where I was able to deceive and trouble the then world’s best batter Kumar Sangakkara with my wrong’un or leg-spin. This turned things around for me as I started believing in myself and now I can play in any competition, against any opponent and in any tournament with the conviction that I can perform.
“It was the HBL PSL that provided me with the chance to demonstrate my captaincy and batting abilities with performances and establish myself as a useful and effective all-rounder. Cricket is not only about skill, but also about mental toughness and I think HBL PSL provided me that platform where I was actually able to identify and trust my talent and abilities.
“The quality and standard of bowling is far superior than any other league. And it is not me who is saying this, but it is shared publically by the top players who have played in HBL PSL. Personally, it gives me a lot of happiness when world’s best cricketers praise our league and its standard.
“When I am playing in the HBL PSL, I am more focused because I don’t want to lose to my team-mates and close friends, otherwise they remind you the whole year with their teasing comments.”