LAHORE, 20January (BelTA - Associated Press of Pakistan). - Pakistan boast a rich cricketing history and over decades the country has produced top-class wicketkeepers and their athleticism and outstanding glovework has left an indelible mark on the game and earned them recognition wherever the game is played.
This HBL Pakistan Super League will once again see two of the best contemporary wicketkeeper-batters from Pakistan lead their sides as Sultans of Multan will march behind Mohammad Rizwan and Gladiators of Quetta behind Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Rizwan has had a superlative 2021. He rewrote the history books by becoming the only batter in the history of the game to score over a thousand T20I runs in a calendar year, smashing 1,326 runs at a staggering average of 73.66 and a strike rate of 134.89. He spanked 119 fours and 42 maximums – both the most for any international batter that year – and scored his maiden century and 12 half-centuries. His extraordinary run earned him PCB's Most Valuable Cricket and T20I Cricketer of the Year awards for 2021.
He joined the Sultans' camp in the 2021 edition and was quick to make a mark by leading them to their maiden title.
Sarfaraz has been at the forefront of Pakistan's T20 revolution, leading the side to record series wins and guiding them to the no.1 spot in the ICC T20I Team Rankings in the process. It is because of his outstanding record at the helm for both Pakistan and Quetta Gladiators that he remains the only player to be leading his franchise since the outset of the league. He has the seventh most runs (1,189 at 31.28 at a strike rate of 128.26) in the tournament.
Multan Sultans made their entry in the HBL PSL festival in 2018. After struggling to leave a mark in their first two seasons, Sultans emerged as a force in 2020 – the first time an entire edition of the tournament was played in Pakistan – when they finished the group stage as the best side with six wins, the most for any side, from eight completed matches.
In the last edition, with Rizwan at the helm, Sultans made history by bagging their maiden HBL PSL title with a fascinating win over Peshawar Zalmi in the final at Abu Dhabi.
Quetta Gladiators have been one of the most consistent sides. They are one of the three sides to have won more than 50 per cent matches in the tournament's history. They played the finals of the first two editions; before bagging the title in 2019.
Their returns in the last two editions have not done justice to the expectations of theirs and league's fans, and the Sarfaraz-led unit will be eager to overturn their fortunes when the seventh HBL PSL kicks off in Karachi on 27 January.
Multan Sultans and Quetta Gladiators have faced-off seven times with the latter coming out victorious four times. They will meet on 31 January and 18 February.
Quetta Gladiators' captain Sarfaraz Ahmed said on Wednesday : “The HBL PSL has proved to be an exceptional platform in unveiling the national talent and Quetta Gladiators have been blessed to have extraordinary youngsters. It has been a delightful experience to lead Quetta Gladiators for the last six years. There have been ups and downs, but the team has stuck together in tough times and every player has backed each other.
“Multan Sultans have been on a roll in the last two seasons, but I am sure we will be able to stop them in HBL PSL 7. They emerged as an attacking and modern-day cricketing unit under Rizwan, who continues to score runs and do wonders for whoever he plays. He is a great addition to Pakistan cricket and his stratospheric 2021 has made each and every Pakistani proud.
Multan Sultans' captain Mohammad Rizwan said : “I joined the Sultans' camp last year and it has been a great experience to work with such an exciting bunch of cricketers. It is certainly a huge responsibility to lead a side like Multan Sultans, but the effort that everyone, from the players to support staff, put in make my job easy. I am eager to do well in this season and stretch my last year's form.
“Quetta Gladiators are a tough side and they can defeat any team. We have immense respect for them and are looking forward to play them.
Squads (in alphabetical order):
Multan Sultans – Mohammad Rizwan (c), Abbas Afridi, Amir Azmat, Anwar Ali, Asif Afridi, Blessing Muzarabani, David Willey, Ihsanullah, Imran Khan Snr, Imran Tahir, Khushdil Shah, Odean Smith/Johnson Charles, Rilee Rossouw, Rizwan Hussain, Rovman Powell/Dominic Drakes, Rumman Raees, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood, Sohaib Maqsood and Tim David
Quetta Gladiators – Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, Ahsan Ali, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Ghulam Mudassar, Iftikhar Ahmed, James Faulkner, James Vince/Will Smeed, Jason Roy/Shimron Hetmyer, Khurram Shehzad, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Muhammad Ashar Qureshi, Naseem Shah, Naveen ul Haq/Luke Wood, Noor Ahmad/Ali Imran, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir and Umar Akmal.