Kolkata: Wahab Riaz, the senior Pakistan paceman who may have lost some of his steam at 36 years, is savouring the triumph of his team Deccan Gladiators in the fifth edition of Abu Dhabi T10 League on Saturday. Deccan, who emerged runners-up in the fourth edition of the tournament earlier this year, did one better when they wallopped Delhi Bulls by 56 runs in the final.
Coming out on top in a format which is more unpredictable than T20 and gives no allowance for reputation, Wahab’s team maintained a consistency and tamed the in-form Bulls thanks to a blitzkrieg from Andre Russell. ‘‘Captaincy is a responsibility and an honour, and I enjoyed my stint as the captain of Deccan Gladiators and the icing on the cake was the Abu Dhabi T10 title. But having said that, I would also like to add being a fast bowler and a captain is always a tough job, especially in a fast format like the T10 where things happen very quickly and you have to take quick decisions or else the match might just slip away.
‘‘Your job becomes a little easy when you have a team as experienced as ours and a coach like Mushtaq Ahmed, whose knowledge and understanding of the game is of encyclopaedic proportion,’’ said Wahab, one of the finest left-arm pacers Pakistan had ever produced.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview, Riaz was effusive in praise about Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg spinner-allrounder of Sri Lanka who made a huge impact in international cricket over last year and was Man of the Tournament with a haul of 21 wickets. Describing him as a ‘complete package,’ the Deccan captain said: Hasaranga is undoubtedly one of the finest upcoming youngsters in the cricketing horizon at the moment. He is one of the best allrounders in the shorter formats and the way he is performing, there is no doubt that he has a very bright future ahead.
‘‘Hasaranga showed that he was special as a youngster as when he started off his ODI career, he became only the third player in history to claim a hat-trick on debut (against Zimbabwe). Not just one, but some of the things that make Hasaranga so special is his consistency, accuracy and variation in bowling and a very level-headed batsmen, without any fuss who keeps things simple but gets the job done. He is also a brilliant fielder, all in all, a complete package and a captain’s delight.
Any conversation with Wahab will be incomplete without a reference to Pakistan’s stirring show in the last T20 World Cup in the UAE and the veteran, who missed the cut for the team, was understandably proud of the Babar Azam-led boys. ‘‘Pakistan always has been a very talented side but sadly, we haven’t been able to perform to our potential on more occasion than one. It was indeed very heartwarming to see the way Pakistan team performed during the World T20 because that is the kind of cricket you expect from them. We can be unbeatable on our day but if we can be a little more consistent, then we will be unbeatable on other days as well,’’ he said.
Finally, a word on Shaheen Afridi? ‘‘Shaheen had a great start to his international career and people have already started comparing him with other great left-arm fast bowlers of Pakistan. Though it is a little too early for any such comparisons, one thing is sure that he is here to stay. He will always have an advantage over the others because of his height and he is able to make the ball jump from an awkward length - making it impossible for batsmen to play. Give him some time, I am sure and he will develop into a very successful cricketer for Pakistan,’’ he added.
This is just the beginning for us, Deccan owner says
Gaurav Grover, the young owner of Deccan Gladiators, says the Abu Dhabi T10 title is just the beginning of something great for them and the team would like to build on their success. ‘‘I can very well say that this is just the beginning of some wonderful time in the future. We have been learning every year and each and every lesson has helped us reach where we are today. We want to build on this success and become one of the best teams in world cricket, both on and off the field,’’ he said in an interview.
Asked to rate the T10 League’s success after a surfeit of cricket already with IPL and World T20, Grover said: ‘‘I would rather say: more the merrier! I am die hard cricket fan and I never get tired watching cricket. Every format has its own charm, how you feel watching a Test match is not same as ODIs or T20 or T10. That is the beauty of the game.
‘‘As far as T10 is concerned, I strongly believe that T10 has a very bright future. New established brands are getting associated with T10, players are earning more for less time on the field and the fan base is increasing. The ICC-approved T10 format is also talked about as a strong contender to make it to the Olympics,’’ he added.