One of the most expensive and hyped franchises of the Pakistan Super League, Lahore Qalandars has not really lived up to the expectations.
The Qalandars have failed to qualify for the playoffs in all the three seasons of the PSL. Blessed with star players like Brendon McCullum, Sunil Narine, and Umar Akmal, the audience is disappointed by their dismal performances so far.
But there’s a twist.
Despite their below-par performance in the PSL, Lahore Qalandars is considered one of the most loved franchises around the country because of the people behind this team. The owner Fawad Rana is arguably the most loved amongst all the owners. His dance moves have made us all laugh at some point, while on the other points, his sad teary face has made us all emotional over the years.
Like many other franchises, LQ have given players like Fakhar Zaman and Shaheen Shah Afridi to the national team. But this doesn’t just stop here, the team owners and management have gone one step further by starting their own players’ development program.
The project starts with a talent-hunt. Open trials are held in various cities of Punjab, KPK, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and FATA regions. This year a separate opportunity was open for overseas Pakistanis as well. A pool of players is shortlisted who participate in a T20 tournament against each other.
All the teams of that tournament are provided proper coaching staff and facilities. The tournament is televised as well. The best sixteen players were picked after the tournament who were sent to Australia to play against the junior teams of Sydney Thunders, Sydney Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes.
The story isn’t just limited to youngsters. It is reported that the Director and Head Coach Aqib Javed found the forgotten left-arm spinner Raza Hasan in a terrible situation on the streets of Lahore. The Sialkot born spinner has played for Pakistan and was once considered the future of Pakistani spin bowling before he was banned in a doping case for two years.
Aqib took him to the Qalandars academy where his rehabilitation started. Raza has started playing domestic cricket again and was a member of the Lahore Qalandars squad for the PSL. Another Pakistan star Imran Nazir who has recovered from tendinitis after five years has returned to competitive T20 cricket by playing for LQ.
Recently, Lahore Qalandars participated in the Abu Dhabi T20 Cup. The three-day tournament had six well-reputed teams from around the world. LQ went with the players who came up through their talent-hunt programs mostly. The young team became the champions and were unbeaten throughout the tournament beating teams like Hobart Hurricanes, Yorkshire Vikings and Multiply Titans. Fawad Rana has announced a cash prize of one million rupees each for the whole squad.
Lahore Qalandars hasn’t been a success on the field but it is surely way above the other franchises off the field. Their love for the game has benefited Pakistan cricket.
Fawad Rana has wholeheartedly invested in the youth, he has given them the facilities and exposure and by winning the Abu Dhabi Cup, the young players have paid him back.
Mr. Fawad is clearly not doing business, he’s giving back to the country and is an inspiration for everyone!