The Pakistan Super League (PSL) recently crossed some major milestones with the award of franchise ownerships and selection of squads via a well organized draft process. The Punjab region in the PSL will be represented by the Lahore Qalandars who are owned by the Qatar Lubricants Company (QALCO).
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the country director of QALCO Mr. Atif Rana spoke about the reasons for his company's interest in PSL, his take on the success of the PSL draft process, the positives of the PSL for Pakistan and it's long term future, his team's chances in the PSL and the status of Yasir Shah in light of the provisional ban imposed by the ICC
By Amir Husain (1st January, 2016)
PakPassion.net : What attracted Qatar Lubricants Company (QALCO) to take an interest in the Pakistan Super League (PSL)?
Atif Rana : The only term that can begin to describe this is the word ‘passion’. This is what people feel about cricket in Pakistan and you cannot beat that as a motivation. As far as Qatar’s connection with the PSL is concerned, we all know that the PSL was to be held in Qatar so we already had some affinity with the game. Although the tournament was moved to UAE, the fact is that Qatar is a sports loving country as can be noted by the fact that we are the hosts for the 2022 FIFA World Cup so it was natural for us to pursue this opportunity and we are very excited to be part of this tournament.
PakPassion.net : Is the draft system the best way to select teams?
Atif Rana : Definitely so. I am sure there are also other ways of achieving the same results but this was a method best suited for this edition of the PSL. Let me tell you that this was an exciting and a very well managed process and the credit must go to the PSL management team headed by Salman Sarwar Butt for the professional manner in which they oversaw the execution of this important phase of the PSL project.
PakPassion.net : How can the PSL benefit Pakistan and its cricketers?
Atif Rana : It is a well-known fact that the advent of the PSL happens to be the largest ever investment in any domestic sport in Pakistan. If one considers the backdrop of this investment and the hurdles which need to be surmounted to make this happen such as perceptions centered around the security situation, then one begins to appreciate the magnitude of the achievement in holding this tournament.
PakPassion.net : The Lahore Qalandars squad looks pretty formidable on paper, was this picked as per your plans?
Atif Rana : Yes very much so. We did some meticulous planning in advance to ensure that we would pick the ideal squad and thankfully everything went 100% as per our plans.
You need to understand that this is a carefully thought-out process which was run by our head coach Paddy Upton with assistance from Shahid Aslam who had a very good understanding of the strengths of local players. The whole process was executed with professionalism and the results are for all to see.
PakPassion.net : What are the positives that you expect to see as the main results of the PSL and what role will QALCO play as owners of Lahore Qalandars?
Atif Rana : To start with, the PSL is sure to project a much more softer image of Pakistan to the rest of the world. It is also a fact that Pakistan as a country has no entertainment industry to talk about. Our film and movie industries compared to some of our neighbours are struggling to say the least. There is no entertainment in Pakistan apart from cricket and even that has been suffering due to the lack of international cricket. The organization is a little haphazard and our local players are suffering due to this reason.
For the first year and given that this is a new setup, we have got ourselves top-grade players via the draft process and that will be fine for now. However, the PSL for us is an investment for ten years and therefore we will need to build a pipeline of talent for ourselves for this period. For that to happen we will make investments in local facilities, at the Under 19 level; basically work on creating the basis for our team by discovering talent from each nook and corner of the Punjab region as that is who we represent as Lahore Qalandars. This plan will not only support our team but will bring new talent to the league and above all, provide future players for Pakistan as well.
PakPassion.net : What is the general feeling about playing the Pakistan Super League away from Pakistan?
Atif Rana : I think it is a matter of looking at the positives of all situations. The best thing about playing in the UAE is that we will have people from Qatar who will find it easier to go Dubai to watch these games. Then due to the international nature of teams, we will have West Indies, South African, Australian, England, Sri Lanka and Bangladeshi fans watching these games which gives it a global flavour. As you probably know, the reason for holding the first edition of this tournament in the UAE is to make sure that there are no security related concerns which can cause a hindrance as even a minor incident can cast a dark shadow on the future of the PSL. Let’s work towards holding PSL and then we can look at more possibilities in the future.
PakPassion.net : Do you feel that there is a possibility of bringing some part of this tournament to Pakistan soil in the future?
Atif Rana : We sincerely hope so! It is our wish that we should play some of the matches in the next edition in Pakistan. In fact there is a very strong belief amongst all of us as franchise owners that this should happen. We can already see a steady improvement in the security situation in Pakistan so having 20-25% of the matches in Pakistan in the next season is a distinct possibility.
PakPassion.net : Are you expecting packed houses witnessing the PSL games in the UAE?
Atif Rana : My view is simply this that if we have the king of Twenty20 cricket playing in a tournament, and the ground is not packed with spectators then Chris Gayle wouldn’t have that reputation as one of the top entertainers would he? Apart from that we have batsmen like Dwayne Bravo, Kevon Cooper, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan and the Bangladesh bowling sensation in the shape of Mustafizur Rahman. I am confident that the crowds will come in large numbers to watch such fine players in action. Like I said, the UAE has many nationalities which follow cricket and they will be pleased to follow cricketers from their own nations and the PCB and PSL will ensure all facilities are top-notch for all to enjoy cricket.
PakPassion.net : How do you expect the PSL to fare in the long-term? Can it challenge the other leagues in terms of popularity?
Atif Rana : The Pakistan market in terms of advertising/marketing is based around the 200 million people mark, out of which 70% can be classed as “cricket crazy”. For most people, there is absolutely no other entertainment than cricket. This league, like all the other leagues in the area, will have a lot of backing from the masses so the future is extremely bright.
PakPassion.net : Any idea on the choice of captain for the Lahore Qalandars?
Atif Rana : This is a topic which our management committee will consider soon and our head coach Paddy Upton will be the person with the most influence in this decision. There is still some time to go to the actual start of the tournament so there is no hurry and we will take our time to make this important decision.
PakPassion.net : Given the star-power in the Lahore Qalandars’ line up, will there be additional pressure to succeed?
Atif Rana : I don’t look at it in this way at all. The pressure will be on the other teams when they face our line-up! If you have a team of match-winners then the other teams need to watch out. There is no reason to worry about pressure of winning every game as that is exactly what we will do!
PakPassion.net : ICC’s provisional ban on Yasir Shah must be a source of worry for you?
Atif Rana : As things stand today, unfortunately Yasir will not be able to play in the PSL games and we are yet to receive any guidance on procedures on his replacement in our squad.