By Sohail Ali
LAHORE, Feb 22 (APP): “Arshad Iqbal is the most-improved fast bowler on the national circuit in the last 12 months,” said legendary Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram ahead of the HBL PSL 6.
The 20-year-old from Swabi cannot get a better compliment from one of the best left-arm pacers the game has ever seen and has impressed the fast bowling legend with his work ethic and commitment.
Arshad says he is lucky to have Wasim in the dugout and credits his success to him. The presence of Mohammad Amir in the side has also benefited him.
“Wasim bhai and Amir bhai are great players,” said an unassuming Arshad on Monday. “ Wasim bhai is a legend and I have seen his bowling videos on YouTube. Getting his advice is a treasure. I am learning and his words are morale boosting. While on the field, Amir bhai keeps telling me what to do.”
Arshad made his mark at the junior level in the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in 2018. He took six wickets in five matches, but got overshadowed by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who ended the tournament as Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the tournament.
On his first-class debut in October 2018, Arshad took five wickets. That performance got him drafted as an emerging player in the HBL PSL 5 player draft and during the season he made an instant impact by providing his team, Karachi Kings, crucial breakthroughs and putting a lid on the flow of runs.
He finished that edition with nine wickets in seven matches.
“I was satisfied [with my performance in the last season] because everyone was praising my progress,” he said.
His economical spells played a crucial role in helping Khyber Pakhtunkhwa clinch the National T20 Cup as the pacer gave away 6.25 runs in the tournament and took four wickets.
He played a pivotal role in helping Kings lift the glittering HBL PSL trophy for the first time as he accounted for in-form Lahore Qalandars’ batsmen Ben Dunk and Samit Patel in the final of the fifth edition in November last year.
The fact that the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will be played later in the year adds further significance to this edition of the HBL PSL. Arshad has had a remarkable beginning as he claimed three for 16 in four overs against Quetta Gladiators in the opening match on Saturday to help Kings script a seven-wicket win for his team and earn player of the match award.
Arshad hopes that it is the start of greater things and his eventual progression to the national colours.
“This match has given me confidence,” he said. “I gained rhythm from the National T20 Cup, and it helped that the next assignment was HBL PSL 5 play-offs. I could not have asked for more.”
A claim to green shirt excites Arshad.
“That is the ultimate goal for everyone,” said Arshad on the prospect of a place in the Pakistan team.
“I am doing my best and whenever there is Allah’s will and selectors’ nod, I will get my chance. Every cricketer has a wish to play for the national team and I am not different.”