- Shahid Afridi talks about his mentorship role for the Mardan Warriors in the inaugural PJL season and how the league can shape the future of Pakistan cricket
Lahore, 25 October 2022: The Pakistan Junior League was a wonderful experience for me as I finally got an opportunity of working with U19 players, something that I had desired for since retiring from international cricket. I have always believed that the best coaching and skills development takes place at the age-group level as that is when you can groom a player and make the necessary technical adjustments.
Despite my tough schedule and commitments with the Shahid Afridi Foundation (SAF), I was delighted when the Pakistan Cricket Board offered me the mentorship role for the Mardan Warriors. I didn’t give it a second thought and immediately worked out my schedule to ensure that I remain committed to the two-week tournament window.
I joined the team a day before the beginning of the tournament in Lahore, it was a bit of an unknown for me but the moment I met the boys and the team management, I felt at home. We had to play the tournament opener at the beautiful Gaddafi Stadium, a venue that brings back so many memories for me, the GSL was one of my favourite grounds as a cricketer and some of my best Test and ODI performances were registered at the venue.
I really liked the opening ceremony that kick-started the tournament, especially the assembly of all six squads at the GSL outfield. That is a moment which the youngsters will cherish for a long time as in your teens you love the attention, and the limelight and the PJL was all about providing a world-class platform to not only our players but also the 24 who had gathered from around the world.
We started well with a resounding victory in our opener against the Rawalpindi Raiders. Our pace bowlers Aimal Khan, Abidullah and Mohammad Nabeel who set up the opening win for us, hugely impressed me.
The trio possesses the skills, swing and above all the pace to trouble the best batters, they have time on their side and I am sure we will see them deliver some exciting spells in the Pakistan Super League and hopefully for Pakistan in the years ahead. I was equally impressed by our openers George Thomas and Shahzaib Khan, and as I mentioned earlier, what made the PJL so exciting to watch and follow, was the presence for some of the big performing U19 players from around the world.
Thomas, Archie Lenham and Luc Martin Benkenstein amongst others are the players that we will hear about a lot. They should have long and fruitful careers ahead of them and I am sure that they will recall the PJL 2022 as an experience that they thoroughly enjoyed and gained invaluable experience from especially in handling the pressure of a competitive T20 tournament in front of a top-class TV and YouTube broadcast.
Besides our pacers, Shahzaib, Haseeb Khan and Daud Nazar created sparks of brilliance for the Warriors. Even though we lost out to a place in the final, I was proud of the way our players performed.
I really enjoyed working with the players, it was fun to help the batters and bowlers in their pre-match drills. The throw downs, catching practice and pre-match bowling drills were fun and made me realise once again that my passion for cricket was still alive!
The PCB deserves credit for coming up with this unique concept. The success of the first season augurs well for the future of the tournament. Within days players like Arafat Minhas, Basit Ali, Shamyl Hussain, Tayyab Arif, Aimal Khan, Uzair Mumtaz, Abidullah, Arham Nawab et al have become known to the Pakistan cricket fraternity and fans. They have progressed leaps and bounds in a matter of days and I am sure the experience plus the monetary gains that they have made will only make them hungrier for more.
At the end of it all, the PJL is meant for our future stars, it is a concept that is visionary and will bear fruits in the years to come. I look forward to contributing in the future PJL events and as always will remain available to serve Pakistan cricket in any capacity.
I owe it to the PCB, my fans and the game itself that has given me everything I have today!