Time Thursday Feb 21 2019

De Villiers lauds Qalandars’ grassroots efforts, looking forward to playing in Lahore

SHARJAH: Legendary batsman AB de Villiers, who is in action for Lahore Qalandars during the ongoing season of the Pakistan Super League, has said he cannot wait to visit the historic city of Lahore for the latter part of the tournament.

In an exclusive interview with Geo, the former South African cricketer termed Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium as one of his favourite grounds in the world.

“I have some great memories of Pakistan. 2007 was the last time we were there, we visited Karachi, Lahore, Multan, we went everywhere and we played some really good cricket,” de Villiers recalled South Africa’s tour of Pakistan twelve years ago, shortly before the security situation drove international cricket away from the cricket-loving nation.

“I can’t wait to walk out there again and play in one of my favourite grounds in the world. I remember scoring some runs there, and I can’t wait to score again,” he said.

Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium is set to host Lahore Qalandars vs Islamabad United match on March 9, Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans on March 10 and Eliminator 1 on March 12. Karachi will host the first of their five matches on March 7 when Karachi Kings will take on Peshawar Zalmi under lights. The other four matches will be: Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators on March 10, Qualifier 1 vs Qualifier 2 on March 13, Eliminator 2 on March 15 and the final on March 17.

“I’ve been having a great time. It’s some great quality of cricket,” the batsman said of his experience playing in the PSL.

“I’m part of a fantastic team. The Lahore boys are really great human beings, there’s some really good talent. We’ve won only one out of three games so far, but it’s a long tournament. We are looking to take things forward from the Sharjah leg onwards now.”

De Villiers, who is captaining Lahore Qalandars after Mohammad Hafeez was ruled out due to a thumb fracture, said he has an easy group of guys to work with. “It makes selection meetings quite difficult, because of so much talent here.”

Haris Rauf's dedication has earned praise from captain AB de Villiers 

According to the 35-year old, the PSL is “right up there” with the other leagues around the world. “It’s a good battle between the bat and ball. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly so far.”

Lauding the Qalandars’ player development programme – a grassroots effort to discover and groom young talent countrywide, de Villiers said the programme was already reaping rewards.

“It’s a fantastic initiative, and they are reaping the rewards. It’s great to give back to those not as privileged. The talent that really wants to [make it] will come through.”

Sharing his thoughts on the new speed sensation Haris Rauf, a find of the Qalandars’ talent hunt, de Villiers said his positive attitude would take him far.

“He’s fantastic. I can see why he came such a long way. He really wants the ball. He comes to me and says, ‘I want to bowl now’. If you have such an attitude in cricket you’re gonna go a long way.”  

--Editing by Maria Shamim