England hopeful Liam Dawson is currently plying his trade in the Pakistan Super League, helping his Peshawar Zalmi team all the way to the final. Dawson's left-arm spin has accounted for eight wickets in as many games, at an average of 28.37, while he smashed a crucial 62 runs off 35 balls in a thrilling one-run win over Quetta Gladiators in their 'eliminator' knockout game. A further win over the Karachi Kings has booked Zalmi's spot in Sunday's final in Karachi itself, where the defending champions will take on Islamabad United. Saj Sadiq (for Sky Sports) caught up with Dawson ahead of the final to get his thoughts on the tournament and his international ambitions…
By Saj Sadiq (22nd March, 2018)
What made you decide to travel to Pakistan with the Peshawar Zalmi squad for the knockout-round matches of the Pakistan Super League?
Liam: My feelings were that it would be a great experience. Any doubts or nerves I had about the decision of going to Pakistan were helped by knowing the overseas players were all in the same situation. We have all been given the information from the relevant authorities regarding the security side of things and that does give you some reassurance which is a good thing. As someone who had never played cricket in Pakistan before, it has been great experiencing the great atmosphere and the love of cricket from the Pakistani people, who we all know are very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the game.
Have you been satisfied with your performances in the PSL so far?
Liam: I have really enjoyed my experience so far and I'd like to think that I have done fairly well so far. But, in T20 cricket, you can have some good days and some bad days which is really all part of this unpredictable game.
What are your impressions of the standards of cricket in the PSL?
Liam: The standards are extremely good, in my view. I may have limited experience in such leagues as I have only played in the Bangladesh Premier League and, of course, the T20 competition back home in England, but I can say that the PSL has a pretty strong standard. If you look at some of the bowling attacks in this competition, you will note that they are absolutely world-class and its a good challenge to play against some of these players.
Have you been impressed by some of the younger talents on display?
Liam: There are some excellent young players in the PSL and a great example of that is Ibtesam Sheikh, my team-mate at Peshawar Zalmi. He is a young leg-spinner who just turned 20, and I can tell you that he is a great prospect and a possible future star for Pakistan. He loves the game and it is refreshing to play alongside this young man and to see how well he performs whenever he plays for us.
How well has Darren Sammy lead Peshawar Zalmi, in your view?
Liam: He has been absolutely brilliant in the way he has captained us, but I must also give credit to the whole management of Zalmi. I believe that Sammy and coach Mohammad Akram both bring a calmness to the team. In a sense, they take the pressure off the players. They tell us that this is only a game of cricket and they will not hold mistakes against us as these things can happen. Thankfully, we've managed to get all the way to the final in Karachi.
What is it like playing alongside Hasan Ali, who was recently declared the ICC's emerging player of the year?
Liam: What really strikes me about Hasan Ali is his love of the game as well as the energy he brings to the table. He's a bit of a joker and, as I said, he just loves the game and loves to bowl. These are such great qualities to have not just for him but also for the team as well. It's been a pleasure to spend the last month with him.
Can Peshawar Zalmi retain their PSL title?
Liam: We started the competition very strongly but then we had a dip in our form which put us in jeopardy and in danger of being knocked out. However, when it mattered, and at the right time, we have won. T20 cricket is all about momentum and we feel that we have that force with us at the moment. It's an excellent time to hit form and hopefully we can beat Islamabad United and defend our title.
You have represented England a few times now, but playing more cricket for your country must be a priority in future for you?
Liam: Without doubt, I would like to play more for England but, at the moment, my emphasis is on the final Zalmi which I need to play in and also perform well in for my team. Then I have to think ahead about my commitments for Hampshire and possibly England as well. There is a lot of cricket ahead for me and I know it's a cliché, but I don't look too far ahead. If I get selected for international duty, then that will be brilliant.
What are your thoughts on the return of Ben Stokes to the England side?
Liam: He makes England a much stronger team, in whatever format he plays. He is such a versatile cricketer in any format and he is a world-class player and an asset for England. His return to the side across all of the formats can only be an advantage. Any England team with Stokes in the starting line-up becomes stronger and makes the opposition wary that he is in the team. He is a truly an exceptional player, without a doubt.
What are your thoughts on the decision to introduce the a city-based T20 tournament in England in 2020?
Liam: I am looking forward to participating in this tournament, although I don't know too many details about it at the moment. It will be great to see a competition of such a nature being staged in England, as it is in other countries, and the tournament should provide entertainment at home in a format which is popular around the world.