Kolkata: The HBL Pakistan Super League VI is in the process of clearing the decks to play the remaining 20 matches of the 2021 season at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium from the first week of June.
More than 200 players, support staff and PCB staffers landed in the UAE capital on Thursday from Karachi and Lahore and have got into a seven-day quarantine before getting down to practice.
There are four ‘debutants’ in the league – all seasoned pros – New Zealand opener Martin Guptill (Karachi Kings), Australia’s top order batsman Usman Khawaja (Islamabad United), allrounder James Faulkner (Lahore Qalandars) and West Indian pace bowler Fidel Edwards with Peshawar Zalmi. Making a return to the PSL fold are the giant West Indies allrounder Andre Russell (Quetta Gladiators) and wicketkeeper-batsman Johnson Charles (Multan Sultans).
Guptill, the explosive Kiwi opener who will sport the colours of Karachi Kings, said: “This will be my first appearance in the HBL Pakistan Super League and I am really looking forward to taking the field for the defending champions Karachi Kings. It is a quality tournament and I am excited about my journey with the Kings who are a very good side.
“We have a good leader in Imad Wasim who has played a lot of cricket around the world and has remained a top T20 performer. I am really looking forward to batting with Babar Azam, who is a world-class batter with impressive T20 numbers. My aim would be to provide a great start for the side along with him and Sharjeel. We have a solid squad with the likes of Mohammad Amir spearheading our attack, I really feel we can create history by becoming the first team to successfully defend the title.”
I still have some great friendships from my PSL experiences and I am really looking forward to join my new teammates at Quetta Gladiators and play under Sarfaraz Ahmed. I have no doubts that the Purple Force will turn the tide and make its fans proud
– Andre Russell, Quetta Gladiators
Khawaja, the graceful Australian opener who had been a bit of late entrant in this brand of cricket, is happy to respresent his city of birth: Islamabad: “That the HBL PSL V is continuing despite the hurdles and challenges it had to face recently, is an excellent news for fans and players alike. These are extremely difficult times for so many and we understand things may not always run as smoothly as they normally do. But the event organisers have done a tremendous job to relocate the event and organise all the logistics in such a short time.
“In this background, I am excited to be a part of this league, happy to represent my city of birth and look forward to playing my part in the success of this league. It is saddening that the event couldn’t be hosted in Pakistan but hopefully I will get another opportunity to play amongst all the fans who have stuck with Pakistani cricket through thick and thin,’’ he told the PCB website.
“The team did really well in Karachi, we are in with a real chance of securing one of the top two play-off berths. Hopefully, I can contribute and add to the team success in this second half of the tournament under captain Shadab Khan. We have a great opportunity to win a third trophy and cement our spot as the most successful side in HBL PSL history,” he said.
Russell, a larger-than-life character in the world of T20 franchise cricket and a matchwinner for Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL, wants to play his part in helping his team turn the corner in the remaining matches. “I still have very fond memories of my first PSL tournament with Islamabad United. I still have some great friendships from my PSL experiences and I am really looking forward to join my new teammates at Quetta Gladiators and play under Sarfaraz Ahmed. I have no doubts that the Purple Force will turn the tide and make its fans proud,” he said.