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Who am I and why should you care? A question I was asked over 15 years back now for the first time, and my answer that first time was probably the most heartfelt – I am the only Pakistani alive to be endeavouring to get a degree in Sports Marketing, against all odds, and I have a singular aim of changing the way sports is managed in Pakistan. That journey started almost two decades back now, and though I can’t say I’ve achieved all that was needed, we’ve all come a long way, and there’s still a long way to go. I have been involved in various iterations of what was initially called the Pakistan Premier League and in its current and real incarnation now is called the Pakistan Super League, whether it be concept development of the property, bidding for it, or as now, taking care of a few critical components of the League. I realise this sounds more like a eulogy now, but I’ve been questioned on numerous occasions as to why there’s a paternal tinge to my handling of the PSL – this preceding prologue should give an insight as to why. The one component held as critical, in fact imperative to the success of any league, is the acquisition of top talent available and attracting them in to the property to be a part of it. This was one of my core areas of responsibility, and while top player acquisition was a very gratifying task, what’s really been heart-warming to see is our local emerging players stand up and be counted. I felt myself stretched beyond reason at times in fighting almost at times, whether within the team or when faced with opposition from team selectors, to not only justify the necessity of these juniors in each team, but also to highlight the long term and immeasurable impact their participation in such a league would mean for their cricketing careers going forward as well as for Pakistan Cricket. I had the honour and privilege of conducting the first ever Draft conducted in the Sub-continent, for the PSL late last year, and though calling out the names everyone knows – Afridi, Gayle, Malik, Watson, Pietersen, and so on, was a feeling I can’t begin to explain, as it represented the culmination of months of sleepless nights and endless days spent negotiating with Boards, Associations, and agents, what really gave me a sense of fulfilment was when Quetta Gladiators picked Mohammad Nawaz, Peshawar Zalmi picked Mohammad Asghar, and others equally talented youngsters went to various teams. Seeing Nawaz uproot Watson’s stumps, and watching Zia get the edge of KP’s bat – that has been the high point of my PSL. Not for the cricketing feats they represent, but for the achievement of the efforts of a small and dedicated few driven to change the destiny of Pakistan cricket to mould it to a bigger, brighter vision we all share for it – to take its place among the top echelon of world cricket.

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Street Cricket and Street Food of Gari Shao in Lahore Lahore is a city renowned for its food and spices coupled with traditional values and love for cricket! While everyone knows of Lahore’s MM Alam road and Food Street, the true heart of Lahore’s street food can be found in lesser known places such as the Shah Alam Market, Garhi Shao and Lakshmi chowk.

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‘My cricketing journey began from the UBL Cricket Academy, and from a very young age I knew I could play at the highest level. Cricket was an obsession for me, and I always dreamed of turning it into my profession. Growing up, I idolized the mighty Wasim Akram and wanted to emulate him. He had it all, a charming personality, a ferocious left arm and I was awed by his willingness to bowl in every situation. A true great in every sense of the word, he was my absolute hero! I started putting in the extra hours, working my socks off in training with the hope of representing Pakistan one day. I finally got to meet Wasim bhai for the very first time in 2015 in Karachi during one of our training camps, and to say it was a dream come true would be a massive understatement! I started performing well at club level cricket during the earlier part of my career, which helped me get picked for Pakistan’s U-19 team. Fortunately for me, my form never left my side and my performances continued to improve. I finally made my debut in First Class List A and domestic T20 in 2010, and God has been kind ever since. I was the second highest wicket taker in our domestic T20 competition, and the highest wicket taker for Pakistan A in 2015, which is probably the highlight of my career so far. Everyone began to take notice, and I also got called up for the national camp, which was the absolute cherry on top! It was a great year for me! All that hard work was finally paying off. HBLPSL is a great opportunity for me personally, and for all the emerging players involved. This is cricket at the highest level, and it doesn’t get any bigger than this. When the draft was announced, I was pretty confident of being selected as my performance spoke for itself. However, I was overwhelmed when I was the first pick from the ‘Emerging Players’ category, the sheer sense of pride and joy I felt at that time can’t be expressed in words, and for that I am grateful to Islamabad United. Islamabad United has given me the perfect platform to progress and develop as a cricketer. I would be sharing the dressing room with the likes of Shane Watson, Andre Russell, Samuel Badree, and our test team captain, Misbah- Ul- Haq. I hope to learn a lot from all these players, and getting acquainted with an international ‘mahol’ would be vital in my development. I will also get to work with Dean Jones, who I always enjoyed watching on TV, and of course, my idol Wasim Akram would be mentoring us! Such opportunities do not come every day, and I hope to grab it with both hands and make it count. My ultimate goal is to represent the Pakistan national team, and do justice to the role. This league is a small step towards that goal. Whenever I am done with my career, I want to be remembered as one of the cricketing greats of this country. ‘Meri pehchaan Pakistan ho’, that’s the dream!

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For a long time now, we have heard about the prospects of Pakistan Cricket Board launching it’s own T20 league. On many occasions, these efforts have faced hurdles that have been hard to overcome. This time, things are on track to redefine Pakistan’s cricket! On February 4, 2016, Pakistan cricket will take another giant step towards adapting to the requirements of modern-day cricket. How so? To begin with, PSL will allow emerging Pakistani players to rub shoulders with some of the best minds in cricket. Imagine a youngester from, say, Quetta sharing a dressing room with Gayle or Watson. Imagine a young fast bowler from Peshawar getting to learn the tricks of the trade from someone like Allan Donald. In short, our younger lot will get in to a fast-track learning experience. As a result of this, we will see many new Pakistani products in the next three-four years.There is hardly any international cricket being played in Pakistan and our boys are not getting enough exposure. Our young boys will be rubbing shoulders with the greats of the game is probably the biggest benefit that they will get. To be honest, this is not just limited to what they do on the field. There are so many things that one learns from senior professionals – training routine, mindset, handling pressure, socialising etc. For some of the younger players who are struggling with their game – the likes of Ahmad Shehzad, Umar Akmal, and Junaid Khan – Pakistan Super League will be a great platform to focus on their game and bring out the best in them. These players are very talented and I will keep a keen eye on their performances in PSL. This will be a great platform for these boys since they will be some of the main players in their PSL teams. As a result, they will be given responsibility and they will be expected to deliver. I am more than delighted to see that top international and local coaches are part of the coach roster. Naturally, this will translate into an immediate improvement in the quality of our cricket. The bigger effect, as you will notice, will be in our domestic cricket at home. Players will now be more eager to perform in other domestic tournaments in a bid to get noticed and that sense of competition will help Pakistan across all formats. Last, but definitely not the least, is the healthy response that PSL has received from top local and foreign cricketers. Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Shahid Afridi, Kevin Pietersen, Lasith Malinga, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard – these guys are rockstars of cricket! I have seen Mr. Najam Sethi and his team work day in and day out to make this possible and the commercial interest in the PSL is a direct result of their hard work. I have no doubt at all that Pakistan Super League will be the biggest sporting festival of Pakistan!

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