How do you see Islamabad United’s team for PSL 2?
Firstly, the team is selected by our selection panel and I have complete trust in them. Secondly, if you personally ask me then I would say why would you change a winning combination. We won 5 matches in a row last season to win the PSL despite a poor start because we stuck together as a team. These were the players who stood up under pressure and supported each other so I don’t see any reason to change the combination because of this.
And how about the additions to the team?
Of course I am glad that Ben Duckett, Shadab Khan and Zohaib Khan have joined the squad this year. Each of them are top quality players whom we have seen succeed in domestic and international cricket, and I have no doubt in their abilities. Inshallah I am very confident of us retaining the trophy.
This could be the last instance of you playing under Misbah-ul-Haq, how do you rate him?
Misbah bhai is obviously the best captain I have played under. The thing with him is that if you concede 15 or more runs in an over he doesn’t panic or starts shouting at you. He maintains his cool and shows his faith in you. He will never discourage you on the field. He has a very clear vision, he knows which bowler is suited for what role and he uses his resources accordingly. For example, he thinks of me as a wicket taking bowler so he throws the ball at me to get wickets, not just to contain. Other bowlers he may use for containment. I like how clear he is in his thought process.
Any particular example of you dealing with Misbah?
I remember we were playing a match against South Africa and I was bowling to JP Duminy. I was moving the ball and Duminy had no clue, he was jumping around and he kept missing the ball. Sometimes he would be beaten, otherwise he would get edges or be hit on the pads. And I wasn’t showing any reactions so Misbah came up to be and said that you have to be in his face a little more. I asked him what he meant exactly and he said you should go and cruse at him or something. So I told him I don’t know any curse words in English, so he said it doesn’t matter as long as you are cursing at him. So the next ball I bowled hit Duminy on the pads and so I said to him: “oye [censored], ballay se khelna hota hai ball ko.” Then I looked around and our fielders were almost on the floor laughing. Later they told me that while it’s right to be aggressive, I just wasted my energy on Duminy because he didn’t even understand what I was saying to him.
Talking of dealing with greats, what was it like to have Wasim Akram in the dressing room?
Well I consider myself very lucky to play for Islamabad United. Firstly Misbah is my captain and then there is Wasim Akram. I have looked up to him all my life. He was a magician so to learn from him is something very special. I am especially glad with the way he treats his team and us fast bowlers. And he is such a hero of ours that the motivation to not let him down and repay his trust in you is big enough for anyone.
And how much did he help you off the field or in the Islamabda Unitd dressing room?
I had a tough start to the PSL1 and instead of dropping me straight away Wasim bhai told me that I needed to rest and that I will be brought back for the crucial matches. He told me that I was an important part of the team and Islamabad United’s match winner so I shouldn’t be worried about sitting out and that I would definitely be back for the knock-out stage.
I am 7 feet tall, so after travelling a lot I require a bit of a rest, and he understood that. He knew I was coming back from a tour, so instead of holding that against me, he told me I would be rested and not dropped. So after that rest and after being told that I would surely make a comeback to the playing 11, I gained a huge amount of confidence, and my focus was always there. So when I returned I bowled far better, I was the man-of-the-match in the game in which I returned, and from thereon I felt that I was in rhythm. Upon my return, my bowling improved drastically, I was man of the match in my return game and from there on I felt in rhythm. And the credit for that goes to him and others who continued to back me when I wasn’t in form.
Finally, what are your aims for PSL 2?
The aim is to win the tournament again, and nothing less. It will be great to win back to back titles and I am very confident in our team’s ability to do so. We won it last year because we didn’t panic, stayed together and were so united. I remember all the coaches continuously telling us that our slogan is United We Win, and that was in our heads the whole time. So I see no reason why we can’t win it this year again if we say united on and off the field.