LAHORE: As many as 90 players were picked up by six teams for the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Junior League during its draft ceremony here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.

The league, scheduled for next month, will feature 66 local, 24 foreign players. They will play for newly-named teams Bahawalpur Royals, Gujranwala Giants, Gwadar Sharks, Hyderabad Hunters, Mardan Warriors and Rawalpindi Raiders.

Each side’s coaches and mentors picked up players in three categories — Elite, Premier and X-Factor — to shape their 15-man squads.

Besides Pakistan, players from nine International Cricket Council member nations will take part in the PJL, which will see 19 matches being played including the playoffs and the final after the teams vie for the top four spots in a single-league format.

High-performing players at the local under-19 level, including Obaid Shahid, Uzair Mumtaz, Mohammad Ismail, Saad Baig, Abbas Ali and Habibullah were named captains of Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Gwadar, Hyderabad, Mardan and Rawalpindi respectively.

West Indies’ Nathan Edwards and Isai Thorne, England’s Tom Aspinwall, Danial Ibrahim, Joseph Eckland and Archie Lenham and Afghanistan’s Hassan Eisakhil were some of the notable foreign players picked up during the draft.

Most of the local players selected for the league are already being nurtured under the PCB’s Pathways Programme and will join their respective teams by the last week of September. The foreigners are scheduled to arrive a week ahead of the tournament, which starts on October 6.

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said the international aspect of the PJL and the fact that the tournament is the first of its kind, gives it the potential to become the “World Junior League”.

Ramiz, of whom the PJL is said to be the brainchild, believed the league will prove to be a supply chain of players for Pakistan and other international outfits as well.

The PJL, announced in April, was initially planned to be a franchise league but in a decision taken last week, the PCB said it would take its “complete ownership” after no teams were sold in the bidding process.

Ramiz claimed there were interested takers for the teams, but he added the PCB feared compromising the quality of the inaugural edition.

The PCB chief expressed displeasure over questions over the PJL’s relevance as a project for player development, with it being a T20 competition — the format not known for improving players’ technical abilities.

He looked unhappy when Dawn inquired why the tournament was being organised in space of just six months after the idea was brought up and how would the PCB manage it all on its own.

“I don’t have much time here [as PCB chairman],” he said. “I am not going to stay here for three years.”

Asked what was the budget for the PJL, Ramiz said: “Two rupees, 10 paisas.”

The PCB chairman sounded defensive again when he was asked about the fairness of the PJL’s selection process, saying the players picked up without merit will expose themselves on the field.

Ramiz believed the PJL would make Pakistan a “trend-setter” in the world of cricket.

PJL squads:

Bahawalpur Royals: Obaid Shahid, Arham Nawab, Nathan Edwards, Sajjad Ali, Ali Razzaq, Basit Ali, Mohammad Zeeshan, Nangeyalia Kharotai, Rehan Ahmed, Ahmed Hussain, Farhan Yousaf, Gabriel Gallman-Findlay, Mohammad Danish, Mohammad Tayyab Arif, Shahwaiz Irfan; Support staff: Imran Tahir (mentor), Gordon Parsons (head coach), Imran Farhat (batting coach)

Gujranwala Giants: Uzair Mumtaz, Ali Asfand, Azan Awais, Tom Aspinwall, Ariful Islam, Hasnain Majid, Mohammad Ibtisam, Mohammad Shan, Shevon Daniel, Hamza Nawaz, Hasan Ali Jr, Matthew Tromp, Mohammad Aqib Asghar, Mohammad Waqas, Saqlain Nawaz; Support staff: Shoaib Malik (mentor), Ijaz Ahmed Sr (head coach), Aizaz Cheema (bowling coach)

Gwadar Sharks: Mohammad Ismail, Danial Ibrahim, Haseeb Nazim, Joseph Eckland, Arafat Minhas, Luc Martin Benkenstein, Mohammad Shoaib, Saad Masood, Shamyl Hussain, Adnan Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Kushal Malla, Mohammad Abu Bakar, Momin Qamar, Mohammad Zulkifal; Support staff: Vivian Richards (mentor), Mushtaq Ahmed (head coach), Kamran Khan (batting coach)

Hyderabad Hunters: Saad Baig, Afaq Khan, Aftab Ibrahim, Isai Thorne, Arbaz Khan, Haseeb-ur-Rehman, James Ross Wood, Lahiru Dawatage, Muneeb Wasif, Ali Naseer, Fahad Amin, Hassan Iqbal, Moeez Rana, Mohammad Zubair Jr, Salman Ahmed; Support staff: Daren Sammy (mentor), Abdul Razzaq (head coach), Ghulam Ali (batting coach)

Mardan Warriors: Abbas Ali, Abidullah, Archie Lenham, George Thomas, Daud Nazar, Haseeb Khan, Mohammad Farooq, Mohammad Nabeel, Olly Cox, Aimal Khan, Burhan Niaz, Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Khan, Syed Tayyab Hussain, Zohaib Khan Shanzaib; Support staff: Shahid Afridi (mentor), Abdur Rehman (head coach), Mohammad Sami (bowling coach)

Rawalpindi Raiders: Habibullah (captain), Afnan Khan, Ali Ishaq, Hassan Eisakhil (Afghanistan), Ali Raza, Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar, Amir Hassan, Aseer Mughal, Kai Smith, Charlie Tear, Haroon Arshad, Naveed Ahmed Khan, Usman Khan, Wahaj Riaz, Ziaullah; Colin Munro (mentor), Toby Radford (head coach), Mohammad Masroor (batting coach)

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

Categorized in: