Time off from Pakistan team helped Sarfraz work on fitness

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KARACHI: Sarfraz Ahmed believes he has made most of the time spent on the sidelines of the Pakistan team.

The wicket-keeper/batsman looks sharper, leaner and fitter than he’s ever been and is ready to go for another Pakistan Super League title.

Sarfraz did not want to talk about a potential comeback to the national side. Instead, sitting in the physiotherapy room at the National Stadium on Tuesday, he wanted to focus on how he’s changed his outlook since he was stripped of the Pakistan captaincy in October last year.

“It was an opportunity for me to spend more time on working towards fitness,” Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfraz told.

“When playing cricket continuously, the focus is more on skill level. But more time off helps with working on both skill and fitness. I’ve worked hard and it will definitely show on the field during the PSL.”

Quetta begins the defense of their title in the opening fixture of the fifth PSL edition against Islamabad United at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Before winning the final last season, Quetta was also losing finalists in 2016 and 2017 under Sarfraz’s captaincy. As Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain, Sarfraz led the side to the top of the ICC rankings and another PSL title with the Gladiators could see him pushing at the door of the national team ahead of the World Twenty20 later this year.

For now, though, Sarfraz’s thoughts are on playing well in the PSL, especially with the bat. He said he will feature at the heart of the Gladiators’ line-up as he did last year.

KARACHI: A bird’s-eye view of the National Stadium which is set to host matches of the upcoming Pakistan Super League.—AFP

“I normally play at number four or five and will continue that. But it might vary according to different situations,” said the right-hander.

The Karachi-born Sarfraz said representing Quetta is a huge responsibility for him and his team-mates. The 31-year-old is deeply associated with Karachi but wearing the Gladiators’ colors gives him a different purpose. In Quetta, where cricket is not as popular as other big cities of Pakistan, Sarfraz wants to inspire kids to take up the sport as passion and profession.

“It is true that cricket is not the most popular sport in Quetta, but as players of Quetta Gladiators, we want to give performances which instill a passion for cricket in kids there,” he said.

“When we visited Quetta after winning the title last year for the trophy parade, the response was amazing. Things like such motivate us to perform and represent Quetta in the best way possible.”

It is often pointed out that the Gladiators’ squad hardly features any players for Quetta. Wicket-keeper/batsman Bismillah Khan has been the most prominent local from the city in the domestic circuit and the PSL.

However, Sarfraz said the franchise is working towards the development of cricket in the city and will hopefully unleash 21-year-old all-rounder Abdul Nasir — a find of the annual Gladiators inter-school tournament in Quetta — in the upcoming edition.

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