by Shayan Siddiqui (3rd September, 2012)
The first edition of the inaugural Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) came to an end in a rain curtained final at Colombo on August 31, with Uva Next taking the title after overcoming Nagenahira Nagas by 19 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method. It concluded a highly successful and well-organised competition, which had been thoroughly enjoyed by all that were part of the Sri Lanka-based tournament.
A member of the winning side, the 21-year old Pakistani all-rounder Hammad Azam spoke to Pakpassion.Net about his experience of playing alongside top international cricketers at the SLPL, its significance with regards to his own professional development, as well as his hopes and plans for improving his game in future.
Although Azam took part in just one match for the winning team, where he was dismissed for 2 runs and went for 33 runs in 3 overs, he was pleased to be a part of the T20 carnival in Sri Lanka and was of the view that the experience of the SLPL had been a good one, stating “I only played in one game but it’s been a great experience. It was a very well organised tournament and I was really impressed with the management. The standard of cricket was also very high, and the atmosphere was similar to that of international cricket. Each team has a mixture of local players and international stars, so the quality of the competition has been excellent and I really enjoyed it.”
One of the biggest attractions of domestic leagues such as the SLPL is that they provide the relatively inexperienced players an opportunity to learn from, interact, and share a dressing room with established international cricketers and coaches from all over the world – a valuable learning curve for any young player. Sharing his experience of being part of the Uva Next squad, Azam stated “I’ve spent time with big names like Jacob Oram and Andrew McDonald, and of course Umar Gul who I’ve played with before. It was a very different atmosphere in the dressing room as there were players from all over the world, but I think we all got on well and there was a good friendly atmosphere amongst us. So it really was a very enjoyable experience.”
Speaking of how the SLPL has benefited him, the Attock-born allrounder added “I tried to learn as much as I could during the matches. The other players really helped me learn how to handle certain pressure situations. I also received a lot of help from the coach Robin Singh who obviously has a lot of experience playing for India. It’s very important for my professional development to take part in such tournaments and hopefully it will have a positive impact on my career.”
A former Pakistan Under-19 star, Hammad Azam has featured in 8 ODIs and 3 T20Is for Pakistan, but has not really got many opportunities to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the team. His last international appearance came in the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh which Pakistan eventually won by 2 runs. Azam scored a valuable knock of 30 off 37 deliveries, but has been overlooked since. He was not included in Pakistan’s squad for the series against Australia as well as the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 which naturally was a huge disappointment for the youngster. However, Azam aims to earn a recall after performing well in the forthcoming domestic season and he is confident that he can improve all areas of his game to the required standard in order to make a return to the national side.
“Domestic cricket in Pakistan is about to restart so I need to ensure I perform well in that. I think of myself as more of a batting all-rounder, but I am working hard on my bowling. It is an area where both Dav Whatmore and Aaqib Javed have helped me a lot, so I’m trying to implement their advice to bring about an improvement. I think fielding is also vital aspect of cricket, along with batting and bowling, so I will need to go back and work on all areas of my game to make a comeback to the Pakistan team” he concluded.