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LAHORE: As the eighth edition of the HBL-Pakistan Super League continues to grip the imagination of the entire nation, the Pakistan Cricket Board has released a special edition of the PCB Podcast, in which Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shaheen Afridi express their resolve to show their best during the event.

The 43rd edition of the PCB Podcast features Peshawar Zalmi’s new captain Babar Azam, Quetta Gladiators’ skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shaheen Afridi, who led Lahore Qalandars to their maiden title last year. The three champion cricketers reflect on the previous events and preview the tournament that will be held in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi from February 13 to March 19.

The 2021 champions Multan Sultans will host reigning champions Lahore Qalandars in the opening match on 13th February, while Peshawar Zalmi will travel to Karachi where they will take on Karachi Kings on 14th February.

Babar Azam, who has the most runs (2,413) in the tournament’s history said, “Every HBL PSL edition is super exciting for me because of its competitive nature. There is a different challenge each year as the players with whom you share the Pakistan dressing room all year become your opponents. A new franchise, and a new season, this HBL-PSL edition holds added significance for me and I am looking forward to making a good start in this journey.”

Babar said, “Sharing the dressing room with different players throughout – one season with Islamabad United and six seasons with Karachi Kings – has helped me a lot. You learn a great deal when you interact with other players, getting to know about their mindset, training regime and the way they handle different situations. It is a dream for me to score a century in the HBL-PSL as I already have two T20I centuries and a few more in different leagues. I am positive about achieving the three-figure mark in this HBL-PSL, and hoping the right time comes soon for a big score.”

Sarfaraz, who is the only player to captain his franchise in all the seasons said, “The HBL-PSL has played a very important role in the development of cricket in Pakistan. The winning side of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 had the players who proved their mettle in the HBL-PSL. Whether it was Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan or Rumman Raees, these guys were doing well in the domestic cricket and were picked by the PSL franchises. Their impressive performances in the HBL PSL earned them spots in the national side. So, the league’s contribution in the development of cricket in the country is immense.”

Lahore Qalandars had a massive change in their fortunes with the change in leadership. Being the only franchise not to have won an HBL-PSL title, the Qalandars, under the captaincy of star speedster Shaheen Afridi, bagged their maiden title by defeating Multan Sultans at their home ground, the Gaddafi Stadium, in front of a jam-packed crowd.

Shaheen, who has 70 wickets (the third most in tournament’s history) at 20.77 said, “As a captain, I don’t only think about those in the field but also for those who are sitting on the bench. You have to carry each and every player in the team and treat everyone equally and as a match winner, regardless of his seniority. The most important aspect of leadership is handling pressure. I need to handle pressure and be good with my decision-making, because if I let the pressure get better of me, my team would crumble. It is also important to lead from the front and outperform myself every time I take the field as it will motivate my players to do well.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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