RAWALPINDI: Dashing Australia batsman Dean Jones has tipped Pakistan’s resurgence in Twenty20 cricket following the success of its new domestic league, saying fierce hitter Sharjeel Khan can revive the country’s fortunes.
Jones, who coached Islamabad United to victory in the inaugural Pakistan Super League this year, was speaking after a mixed-gender exhibition match in Rawalpindi.
The 55-year-old featured alongside his players, team director and bowling legend Wasim Akram, as well as four members of the national women’s team.
Despite rising to the top of Test rankings for the first time, Pakistan have wilted in shorter formats of the game, dropping to ninth in one-dayers and seventh in Twenty20 rankings.
Jones said the success of the PSL, a five-team franchise-based event staged in the United Arab Emirates that attracted top global talent and turned a healthy $2.6 million profit despite low expectations, would help Pakistan’s players adapt their skills.
He said, “Let’s not forget why India is good at T20 cricket: they have already had eight or nine IPLs, [which] goes for two months … and their guys have learnt through other coaches and influence from other players,” referring to the Indian Premier League, the format’s marquee tournament.
“We just have [had] one real Pakistan Super League and already now they are starting to get the idea about what’s expected at this level.
“This game, T20 cricket is morphing and changing into a different beast, a different animal.
“It’s about power, it’s about fitness, it’s about guys who can bowl proper death bowling and proper defensive lines and lengths … so it’s a huge learning curve for some of them, but they will get better within three or four years time … they will become a top two team in world T20 cricket.”
Power hitting has become an issue for Pakistan’s limited-overs sides recently, with the team struggling to pile up big totals.
But Jones, who in 1986 famously struck 210 in the blistering heat of Chennai in cricket’s second-ever tied Test, picked out 27-year-old Islamabad batsman Sharjeel Khan as the man who could turn Pakistan’s fortunes around.
“Sharjeel Khan is your next guy for the next ten years [in T20]. He’ll hurt most bowlers in the world,” said Jones.
Jones rolled back the years during the exhibition match to strike a rapid fire 26 off 10 deliveries, including several lusty boundaries in his team’s 106-4 off 12 overs.
The match was also notable because of the presence of four women stars, with Anam Amin claiming the wicket of Zohaib Ahmed and batter Bismah Maroof hoicking several deliveries off spinner Imran Khalid into the outfield before he bowled her out.
Jones also hailed Pakistan’s rise to number one in the Test rankings as “phenomenal” given the side has been starved of matches at home since 2009 terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team.
He said: “See apart from Misbah (ul-Haq) and Younis Khan maybe, not many boys have played for Pakistan on home turf, and that is sad, that is really sad for some of the boys.
“And can they get better? You betcha. Oh they can get better. There will be a time when they improve their batting and improve their fielding, they probably should have beaten England in the series proper but their fielding probably let them down,” he added, referring to Pakistan’s 2-2 draw in their away series last month.