Exclusive: Nawaz makes Quetta Gladiators owner proud with his India heroics

The Pakistan Super League has become the second most popular franchise league in the world, producing players that can deliver knockout punches on the biggest of matches



Mohammad Nawaz was the unlikely hero against India.
Mohammad Nawaz was the unlikely hero against India.
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 6 Sep 2022, 12:39 AM

Last updated: Tue 6 Sep 2022, 1:00 AM

Away from the glamorous world of the Indian Premier League (IPL), there lies another version of T20 franchise cricket across the border which is quietly unearthing some gems.

Unlike the rising IPL stars that rub shoulders with the likes of David Warner, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Kane Williamson, Pat Cummins, Anrich Nortje, Josh Hazlewood, Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada – the who’s who of world cricket – local players in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) mostly get to play either against ageing international players and players that don’t really belong to the upper echelons in the world game.

But the PSL has nevertheless become the second most popular franchise league in the world, producing players that can deliver knockout punches on the biggest of matches.

One such player is Mohammad Nawaz, the bowling all-rounder who delivered a telling blow against India on Sunday.

With a stunning 20-ball 40, Nawaz provided the spark around Mohammad Rizwan’s majestic 71 as Pakistan went on to beat India by five wickets in the DP World T20 Asia Cup Super Four clash in Dubai.

Promoted to number four by the think-tank in a bold move after Pakistan lost two wickets for 63 in the ninth over while chasing 182, Nawaz decimated the rival bowlers with an astonishing counterattack that stunned the Indian team.

But one man was not surprised by the left-hander’s match-winning knock.

Nabeel Hashmi, the head of Player Acquisition Quetta Gladiators (PSL) and Galle Gladiators (Lanka Premier League) had followed Nawaz’s career even before he was hired for his team.

Pakistan pacers Naseem Shah (left) and Mohammad Hasnain (right) with Nabeel Hashmi. — Supplied photo
Pakistan pacers Naseem Shah (left) and Mohammad Hasnain (right) with Nabeel Hashmi. — Supplied photo

“When we picked him for the inaugural season of the PSL in 2016, our owner Nadeem Omar knew that we have got a special player in Nawaz,” Hashmi told the Khaleej Times over phone from Pakistan.

“Our owner predicted that Nawaz would be the player of the tournament. He didn’t win that trophy, but he was simply superb for us. We knew that he was going to be one of the most sought-after players.

“In fact, he is someone that we feel is the most important player for the Quetta Gladiators. Our captain Sarfaraz (Ahmed) always says that ‘my team is not complete without Mohammad Nawaz. I would rather write his name even before my name in the team list’.

But Nawaz was actually first picked by Nadeem Omar, the owner of Quetta Gladiators, at least six years before the start of the PSL.

Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar (left) with West Indian great Viv Richards. — Supplied photo
Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar (left) with West Indian great Viv Richards. — Supplied photo

“I first picked him for my local club in Pakistan domestic cricket about 12 years ago,” Omar, a prominent Pakistani businessman, told the Khaleej Times over phone.

“I found him to be among the best young all-rounders. When he started playing Ramzan cricket tournaments for us in Karachi, nobody knew him. But I liked him because he had great hitting power right from an early age. He was also a very good bowler. So when we bought the Quetta Gladiators, he was one of our first choices.”

Despite his impressive all-round displays for the Gladiators, Nawaz wasn’t rewarded consistently by the Pakistan selectors until he defended seven runs in the final over with his crafty left-arm spin against a star-studded Peshawar Zalmi team.

“He was asked to bowl the last over when Zalmi needed only seven runs. Imagine a spinner defending seven runs! But he bowled brilliantly and we won the game by one run. It was a historic moment in Pakistan cricket and the Pakistan selectors then started giving him chances,” Omar recalled.

The veteran sports enthusiast said the Pakistani team management made the perfect tactical move of sending Nawaz, 28, at number four against India.

“Nawaz always responds well when you give him responsibility. If you give him more responsibility, he performs better. I am very happy that the team management gave him that responsibility yesterday (Sunday) against India. It was very good decision for the team,” he said.

“And I am very happy that the boy I picked for my club all those years ago is now showing his talent in international cricket. I always knew he is a very good player”

Hours after the match, Nabeel Hashmi sent a WhatsApp message to Nawaz, congratulating him on his man-of-the-match performance.

“’I am big fan, Sir. Can I get a reply?’ I teased him on WhatsApp,” Hashmi said.

“He just laughed and then thanked us because Quetta Gladiators have played a very big part in his progress. Not just Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, too. We first picked Naseem Shah even when he had a stress fracture. Mohammad Hasnain, you know, he was coming back from an ankle fracture and we still picked him. Now you see both of them bowling at 150 kilometres per hour, swinging it both ways!”

Omar agreed that the PSL has played a big role in making Pakistan a formidable T20 team.

“Most of our new generation of players are PSL products, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Hasnain, Asif Ali, they have all come through the PSL,” he said.

“So this league has contributed a lot to Pakistan cricket. Hopefully they will be among the top contenders in the World Cup this year.”


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