Islamabad United ready to defend title, says Wasim
09 Feb 2017 - 2:18
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
Bowling great Wasim Akram (pictured) said defending champions Islamabad United have arrived for the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 'well prepared'.
Akram, the Director Cricket of Islamabad United, last year saw his side race to a memorable title win under the captaincy of Misbah Ul Haq at the five-team franchise-based event held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Australia's all-rounder Shane Watson, England's T20 specialist Sam Billings and West Indian hard-hitting opener Dwayne Smith are part of the strong United squad that also includes Pakistan batting star Sharjeel Khan and spin wizard Saeed Ajmal.
Former Australian World Cup hero Dean Jones is the team coach of Islamabad United.
The second edition of PSL starts in Dubai today.
"There will be close games, I am sure but Islamabad United has arrived well prepared. They have put in the hard work. Let's hope the best team wins," Akram said during a TV chat show broadcast yesterday.
"Look, there are five teams and our first goal is to be part of the four sides that qualify for the play-offs," Akram said.
"Obviously there is a long way to go before we could think of the play-offs. There will be a lot of intense battles before we start thinking of the last-four stage," Akram, 50, said.
Akram said PSL was a major hit with Pakistan cricket fans.
"This is an exciting time for Pakistan cricket. It's Pakistan's own tournament with a global appeal," Akram said.
"Last year, it was great to see that the entire country owned the event as their own. The response from the fans was awesome and I am sure the teams will fight for top honours this year as well," Akram said.
Akram said Islamabad United's team physio and dietitian Dean Watford was signed up to ensure players arrive at the pitch and fit every single time.
"He is our trainer. He is one of the fittest guys around the team. We had a training camp for the squad for a little over a week," he said about Watford.
But Akram said he was shocked to see the players showed scant respect for the quality diet.
"I was shocked to see the diet of the some young players in the squad last year. We were playing the first game and Dean has just joined the team. Normally you enter the ground around 6:00pm and the game would start a couple of hours later at 8:00pm," he said.
"What happens is there is a buffet in every dressing room. In walks Dean and grabs a piece of grill chicken and walks off. Shane Watson had a little bit of pasta. Our boys from Sialkot, they would take a big serving of rice followed by lots of fried meat on top.
"I told them 'son, is this a time for your meal or just a snack?. The game starts in two hours and how will you play if you eat so heavy?'. But that's all they knew. They did not know the importance of a good diet for a top athlete.
"He's also teaching them to eat early; for example, dinner by 8:30," he said. "And that's where Dean has been very helpful," Akram said.
Watford said Misbah would be one of the fittest guys around the squad along with Akram.
"We have quite a few fit players. I would say Akram is the fittest guy still though he doesn't play the sport any longer," Watford said. "Misbah is certainly one of the fittest guys going around.
"Unfortunately, the traditional Pakistan food is not conducive for high performance sports.We are trying to steer them away from the more traditional Pakistan foods. When they eat right, it will give them lots of energy when they play.
"I have tasted the Pakistani food . I like Biryani, but I stay away from most of the stuff as I want to stay in shape," he quipped.