LAHORE: The HBL Pakistan Super League has served as a launching pad for several talented youngsters over the years as the exposure to quality cricket in the presence of national and international stars helps them to enhance their skillset.
Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Haider Ali and Mohammad Haris are examples of players who have shot to prominence from the HBL PSL platform and gone on to prove their mettle on the international stage.
Some of the newcomers excited to showcase their skills in HBL PSL 2023 include Multan Sultans’ Arafat Minhas, Karachi Kings’ Muhammad Irfan Khan, Peshawar Zalmi’s Haseebullah, Lahore Qalandars’ Shawaiz Irfan, Quetta Gladiators’ Aimal Khan and Islamabad United’s Hassan Nawaz.
All six future stars with the exception of Arafat, selected in the supplementary round, have been picked in the emerging category for their respective franchise.
This young lot will be eager to establish their credentials as the tournament commences in Multan on 13 February with the opening match between Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars.
Arafat Minhas – Multan Sultans
Arafat has enjoyed a successful run in the series between Pakistan U19 and Bangladesh U19 in November 2022, where he bagged the player of the series award at the end of the three one-days having scored 171 runs with two half-centuries.
He also managed to take three wickets.
His impressive performances in the Pakistan Cup saw him being attached to Pakistan Test squad for the first Test against New Zealand in December with the objective of providing international exposure and experience.
Belonging to Multan, Arafat is looking forward to representing the city of his birth.
“It is an unbelievable feeling and a great opportunity to express myself.
I want to prove that I can compete on big stage. To be honest I am not giving myself and specific targets and goals, I just want to go out and express myself and learn from the biggest stars of the game.”
“I hope to get tips from the best hitter in the game David Miller with whom I’ll be sharing the dressing room. My favourite memory from the HBL PSL is Rilee Rossouw’s breathtaking hundred in Multan against Quetta Gladiators in HBL PSL 2020.”
Muhammad Irfan Khan – Karachi Kings
A product of the PCB’s age-group programme, middle-order batter Muhammad Irfan Khan has represented Pakistan in two ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cups in 2020 and 2022.
The 20-year-old made 141 runs in nine innings in the National T20 2022-23 at a strike-rate of 153.26 with a 31-ball 57 against Balochistan being the highlight of his campaign.
“Getting selected for the first time in the HBL PSL is certainly a satisfying feeling.
I want to perform well in this tournament as the HBL PSL stage propels you to the limelight and you can boost your case for selection in the national team.”
“In Karachi Kings, I will have the opportunity of interacting with my cricketing idol Shoaib Malik, who has a lot of experience playing for Pakistan and in leagues around the globe.
He is also a middle-order batter like me so I will definitely use the opportunity to learn from him.”
“Daren Sammy’s heroics for Peshawar Zalmi in the HBL PSL 2018 match against Quetta Gladiators was a memorable moment.
He was unfit during the chase but still helped Peshawar win the match at a time when they required 16 off 7 balls.”
Haseebullah – Peshawar Zalmi
Talented prospect from Pishin, Haseebullah Khan has been a prolific performer in the domestic circuit ever since he made his List A debut in March 2022.
He was the leading run-getter in his team’s Pakistan Cup 2021-22 winning campaign and was second-highest run-scorer in the subsequent season of the 50-over tournament. His tally of 551 runs and 10 dismissals saw him take home the best wicketkeeper of the tournament award.
Harbouring aspirations of becoming the first Test cricketer from Balochistan, Haseebullah wants to make the most of his maiden HBL PSL season.
“Being picked in the HBL PSL draft for Peshawar Zalmi was a proud moment for me. Our team has Babar Azam and Haris Sohail.
Haris has been my teammate in Balochistan and I had my first experience with Babar bhai during the second Test against New Zealand.
I am happy to share the dressing room with them for an entire season.”
“One HBL PSL match I still remember was the Qualifier between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi in 2017 when Mohammad Nawaz successfully defended seven runs in the last over.”
Shawaiz Irfan – Lahore Qalandars
Shawaiz Irfan built a reputation of being a fierce striker of the cricket ball in the Pakistan Junior League.
He was part of the champion side Bahawalpur Royals and blasted a 32-ball 79 studded with six sixes in the final of the competition.
His rollicking show allowed him a chance in the Pakistan U19 team for the home series against Bangladesh U19.
“I am thankful for being picked in Lahore Qalandars and I am definitely excited to play in the HBL PSL for the first time. It will be an exciting occasion to play in front of the passionate fans.”
“I am stoked to share the dressing room with the likes of Rashid Khan, Sikandar Raza, Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf, and it was my wish to be in their company.”
“My favourite moment in the HBL PSL was when I watched the Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans final live from the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. It was an inspiring moment to see my heroes in action.
Aimal Khan – Quetta Gladiators
Right-arm pacer Aimal Khan made waves in the opening match of the Pakistan Junior League when he bowled a match-winning spell of 3-15 in four overs for Mardan Warriors.
Aimal’s ability to generate steep pace and sharp swing makes him a potent option with the new ball.
“The HBL PSL is a big brand and its importance is known in the cricket world. I feel honored to play in this league and be associated with Quetta Gladiators.”
“Interacting with Naseem Shah will be a satisfying experience. I will be using the tips I receive from him to challenge the likes of Mohammad Rizwan and David Miller in the tournament.”
“Seeing Shaheen Afridi hit 23 runs in the last over of the chase against Peshawar Zalmi in HBL PSL 2022 to take the game to the Super Over was a thrilling moment for me.”
Hassan Nawaz – Islamabad United
The Layyah-born Hassan Nawaz demonstrated his six-hitting talent in the Kashmir Premier League stint with Mirpur Royals, where he managed 241 runs in six innings at a strike-rate of 148.76 and 14 maximums.
Hassan also played five games in the National T20 2022-23, showing glimpses of brilliance.
“Islamabad United has always been my favourite team and I am glad to be a part of the franchise in my first HBL PSL season.”
“Learning from power-hitters like Asif Ali and Colin Munro would hone my skills and make me a better player in this format.”
“Witnessing Asif Ali smashing those three consecutive sixes to Hasan Ali in the final of the 2018 edition was a something special. Being a hard-hitting batter myself I fancy his gameplay.”