The cult of Peshawar Zalmi: What makes the team such a hit among fans?

Zalmi have not only attracted attention but also gained respect for their thrilling performances

Ebad Ahmed
The cult of Peshawar Zalmi: What makes the team such a hit among fans?

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the Pakistan Super League without Peshawar Zalmi would be like the Pakistani cricket team of 1990s without Wasim Akram. Or how about celebrating 14th August without Vital Signs’ iconic ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’? Can’t imagine it, right? Just like you simply can’t disassociate the two, it’s hard to imagine PSL without Peshawar Zalmi.

The team has given its fans and cricket lovers all that can be expected of a good T20 franchise – exciting display of cricketing skills with a tinge of entertainment from a squad starring some of the best cricketers in the world.

Zalmi have not only attracted attention for their star power but have also gained an immense amount of respect for their thrilling performances throughout the league.

Who can forget this stunner of a catch by Zalmi captain Darren Sammy? Even more memorable than this catch was Sammy’s group ‘selfie’ pose which took the internet by storm and kept the fans talking for days.

In this age of commercialised cricket, the Zalmi team has managed to establish a strong relationship with its fans, not just through entertaining acts such as the ‘selfie’ but also through heart-warming charitable deeds such as the invitation of child patients from Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital to watch PSL matches in the stadiums in UAE.

Whose heart wouldn’t melt after getting to know that England captain and Zalmi batsman Eoin Morgan gave away his entire kit to these brave little kids before leaving the tournament to join national duty?

Another thing which makes Peshawar Zalmi a big hit among fans is the fact that it symbolises Peshawar, its culture and language.

When you see the team playing, you know that a fair number of players in yellow jerseys are proudly representing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are affiliated with the province. They have an association with the region for which they are playing.

Though anyone on the streets of Karachi, Lahore or Quetta would readily support the team representing their city in the PSL, it is Zalmi which have given Peshawaris a proud reason for association because when Muhammad Asghar, Junaid Khan, Imran Khan (Jr), Iftikhar Ahmed and Shahid Afridi walk in to the field, it is ‘their’ boys who are playing. It is them on the field.

It is Bala Hissar Museum, Mohabbat Khan Mosque and Qissa Khuwani Bazar competing for pride on the pitches of Sharjah and Dubai. The game turns personal for Zalmi supporters.

And, of course, who can deny the fan power of ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi? Love him or hate him, you just cannot ignore him. Afridi, whether you love him for his sixers or are left frustrated when he’s caught out while charging down the pitch, has brought an incredible energy to Peshawar Zalmi and, of course, the Pakistan Super League.

Afridi is the ninth highest scorer in PSL 2017 so far, with 177 runs to his name at an average of 29.50 and strike rate of 175.24. Put him in any team, the franchise would gain a fan following overnight.

Last but not the least, the latest gesture from the Zalmi players has shown that the team cares about its fans and their wishes; where many other foreign players have refused to play the final of the PSL in Lahore, five key foreign players of the Zalmi team - Dawid Malan, Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan and Samit Patel – are ready to visit Pakistan if the team qualifies for the final.

Credit must be given to the players, team management and owners for not only giving a quality franchise to the cricket lovers of the country but also reasons for emotional attachment with the team.

Good luck Zalmi, or more appropriately, Bunnah Chans Zalmi!