LAHORE: Salman Butt-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) cricket team are aiming high as they look to regain the prestigious Pakistan Cup 2019, which will be played at the ‘Pindi Cricket Stadium from 2nd to 12th April.
“It’s an honour to lead the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa team in what is a prestigious tournament. Pakistan Cup is a very competitive event and I am looking forward to meeting and gelling-in with my players. We are hoping to give our best and eyeing a win,” Salman said on Wednesday.
Salman added that his squad was well-balanced and included some leading domestic cricket performers, who could stake a claim in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 squad by delivering the goods in the tournament.
“The team looks good, there are a number of youngsters in the batting department, while the bowling is led by the experienced trio of Wahab Riaz, Umaid Asif and Sohail Khan with young talent Musa Khan. We also have a good spinner in Mohammad Irfan,” he said adding “With the World Cup squad to be announced following this event, the tournament presents a great opportunity for the players to impress the selectors and stake a claim.”
Federal Areas will be defending their title while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan are the other competing teams in the tournament.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa won the inaugural edition in 2016 when they comfortably beat Punjab by 151 runs at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad under the captaincy of former Pakistan captain Younus Khan.
The side had a lean run in the second edition in Rawalpindi, where they stood last, while they lost by five wickets to Federal Areas inthe 2018 final in Faisalabad.
For the 2019 edition, the national selectors have picked a balanced Khyber Pakhtunkhwa squad that includes some of the leading domestic cricket performers besides Salman, Adnan Akmal, Umaid Asif, Wahab Riaz and Sohail Khan.
With the 15-player squad for the World Cup to be announced after the Pakistan Cup, the tournament provides another opportunity to the cricketers to stake a claim for a place in the biggest cricket spectacle on the planet. For this event, the selectors have the option of including a few more players if they feel appropriate before revealing the World Cup squad.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s batting department includes Abid Ali who is presently in the United Arab Emirates with the Pakistan cricket team for the series against Australia. The batting line-up also includes Bannu-born left-handed Khushdil Shah, who is known for his big-hitting. Khushdil has already scored six centuries in 48 List A matches and is averaging 44.10 per innings.
Adil Amin, Faizan Riaz and Zeeshan Malik are all capable batsmen in the squad. Pakistan Test player Adnan Akmal will be doing the glove work behind the stumps for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Wahab and Sohail offer Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a richly experienced and potent pace attack. The pace bowling department is strengthened further by the inclusion of right-armer Umaid Asif, who represented Peshawar Zalmi in the last two Pakistan Super League editions.
PSL franchise Islamabad United’s right-arm fast bowler Musa Khan is another outstanding prospect who will provide some extra pace to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa squad.
Musa made a big impression in the recently-concluded PSL 2019 by picking up eight wickets while bowling regularly above the 140kph mark.
Left-arm spinner Zohaib Khan will provide Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a capable spin bowling option. The 35-year-old Zohaib has a rich List A experience with a total of 146 wickets in 105 matches. Leg-spinner Mohammad Irfan is another quality spinner at Salman’s disposal.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa squad – Salman Butt (captain); Abid Ali; Adil Amin; Adnan Akmal (WK); Faizan Riaz; Khushdil Shah; Mohammad Irfan; Mohammad Irfan Jr; Mohammad Saad; Sohail Khan; Musa Khan; Umaid Asif; Wahab Riaz; Zeeshan Malik and Zohaib Khan