The seventh edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) ended with a bang in Gaddafi Stadium, where, swept along by crowd support that almost reached mystical levels, Shaheen Shah Afridi and his men blew away defending champions Multan Sultans by 43 runs. Runners up were Multan Sultan, another team from central Punjab and led by Muhammad Rizwan. He is among the top T20 and One Day International (ODI) batters while Lahore Qalandar’s Captian is the No. 1 blower of the shortest format of white-ball cricket. Both these stars hail from KPK province which is a unique occurrence in the history of this sports extravaganza.
Muhammad Rizwan belongs to the Mardan district while Shaheen Shah Afridi is from the Afridi tribes of KPK. It is an amazing fact that despite belonging to KPK, both led 2 teams from Punjab. This indicates the strength of unity achieved through diversity and co-existence, mutual respect, and professionalism. Both led from the front. In their every match, Shaheen opened a bowling attack for LQ while on the other hand, Muhammad Rizwan opened the inning for MS. Shaheen was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament while Muhammad Rizwan remained 2nd highest run-getter and won “Player of PSL” and Best Wicketkeeper awards. They were able to achieve these personal milestones while taking the pressure of captaincy of their respective team. Both played a key role in their team victories during their run-up to the final. They both yielded command and respect from their respective team members and love from staff and managers. Their mutual respect was evident in post-match celebrations when both the captains hugged each other with joy and congratulated each other.
With victory in PSL 7, Shaheen Shah Afridi has emerged as world’s youngest captain who won a T20 league tournament. International media has applauded his success.
In the last four months, Shaheen Shah Afridi has been
ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year 2021
T20 World Cup semi-finalist
Ranked in the top five Test bowlers
What. A. Player pic.twitter.com/4mIZObnoli
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) February 28, 2022
PSL has established itself as the biggest brand of sports in Pakistan’s history. The annual tournament is loved equally by cricket lovers both at home and abroad. PSL began during a very volatile and violent era in Pakistan when the country was not considered safe for any sports and no international player was ready to play in Pakistan. PSL began in Dubai which at that time would act as Pakistan’s home ground. It took the consistent occurrence of 6 editions before Pakistan Cricket Board was able to hold the entire tournament in Pakistan.
Cricket is more than a sport for Pakistan. It binds the nation into one shunning ethnic and sectarian differences. Cricket has brought home honors and glories. This sport has shown the world what natural talent Pakistanis are gifted with. The cricketing history of Pakistan very much characterizes that of the country. Like the country in general, Pakistani cricket has oscillated between breathtaking brilliance and shambolic nadirs. The mercurial nature of our cricketers and their ability to stun the world when the chips are down is pretty much akin to how the state of Pakistan “bounces back”. Cricket is not only a potent tool of diplomacy but is one of national integration.
Apart from Muhammad Rizwan and Shaheen, there are other players from KPK who have made their mark in national and international cricket. Aamer Azmat is a 23 years old young MS batsman who is originally from Peshawar. Khusdil Shah, who won “All-rounder of PSL” and “Fielder of PSL” awards in PSL 7, also belongs to KPK. He has represented Pakistan in many international contests across the world. Arshad Iqbal was another KPK star in PSL 7 who was part of the Karachi Kings team.
34 years old MS bowler, Muhammad Imran Khan belongs to Dir, KPK, and his teammate Asif Afraid who opened an MS bowling attack against LQ in the final also from KPK. He picked up 2 crucial wickets in the final game as well.
Cricket, apart from being a unifying force, is also an important counter-terrorism/counter extremism tool at the social level. It’s the responsibility of the government to give young boys and girls bats and balls so that they can be kept away from guns and violence. Let the youth follow Muhammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Khushdil, Babar Azam; this is the need of the hour so that more heroes can emerge from KPK and bring laurels for Pakistan cricket, InshaAllah.