Double World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy praised the fighting spirit of Peshawar Zalmi who won back to back must win games to qualify for the playoffs after routing Lahore Qalandars by seven wickets in Sharjah on Friday.
Zalmi chase down a tough 173-run target on the back of a brilliant 107 not out by Kamran Akmal which thrilled a packed house at Sharjah stadium, lifting the defending champions to the second position before the last game between Karachi Kings and Islamabad United could push them to third.
Sammy accepted the last few days were tough.
“It was tough,” said Sammy. :”But when the situation gets tough we stick together as a team and I think that there are so many attitudes in the Zalm that really pulled us through. The two must-win games to qualify and the character my team showed is amazing.
“As a captain and as a coaching squad that’s what we want. Kami played both games well and the bowlers responded and that took us to the playoffs.”
Sammy admitted there were fears but his team stuck to the task.
“Obviously you see what is ahead of you. Ideally, we would have loved to qualify before the last two games. But as you look at the tournament we have always been in the top two.”
Sammy pointed out his team started on the wrong foot with two quality allrounders Shakib l Hasan of Bangladesh and his former West Indian teammate Dwayne Bravo ruled out of the PSL with injuries.
“Look, when we started the tournament we were dealt with two major blows, Shakib Al Hasan and Dwayne Bravo, who you could say they are four players. On any given day they bowl four overs and bat at five or six and that was difficult to replace but I must commend the guys in the squad.
“The way we played showed our character, Hasan also came in the fifth-sixth game, we played with so many injuries but that’s not an excuse and we have peaked at the right time, so far we have done the first step by getting into the play off.”
Sammy showered praise on Kamran, who is now the top scorer this year with 347 runs.
“Look, I have always been a fan of Kamran. You know, I think a few years back when Misbah-ul Haq played for St Lucia Zouks, where I was captain, and I have always admired him (Misbah) as a captain and he would always say that one thing that Imran Khan had told him that ‘you never drop your match winners’ and I see Kamran Akmal as a match-winner in any team he plays.
“When you have guys who take risks at the top they perform and on any given day they win you match all by themselves. I trust in his ability and look out of the ten games he has won me three, by himself so he is a class act and hopefully his injury is not serious as we still need him in the games to come.”
Sammy said Kamran’s hundred, which included seven sixes and 11 boundaries, was an exceptional inning.
“It was an excellent century, any T20 hundred has to be a great one especially in the situation in a do or die game, coming and chasing a score of over 170 I am quite happy with that.”
Asked would he advise the Pakistan selectors to consider Kamran for a comeback, Sami said: “Look, that’s not my job but what I see in any sport and any sportsmen need to perform. If you are performing you are in the selectors’ eyes and that’s all Kami has to do and the focus now for him is Peshawar and win us matches.”
Sammy hoped he will continue the job of guiding the young players.
“I am at the stage where if I could guide youngsters to become themselves and try to put my team where they could come better, you know, look Kami played on one leg. Its something he saw his captain before,” said Sammy of his one-legged knock against Quetta Gladiators in Sharjah.
“My job is to nurture talent I am 44 years old so its not about me, at the end of the day when my team needs me to perform so as a leader, as a batsman under pressure, not every game it could happen but that’s why cricket is a team sport and everybody has to contribute.”
Sammy said Zalmi have not spoken to foreign players over going to Pakistan for playoffs and the final.
“To be honest that’s not something we have discussed Jordan was there last year, Fletcher so we have not discussed it as yet. At the end of the day its what you chose, we will wait until what happens tonight but it’s not yet discussed. Probably tonight we now know that we have qualified then we sit down and have a chat,” said Sammy, who thanked the Zalmi fans.
“That’s something (thanking fans) I forgot to say at the post-match. I want to thank our fans, especially in Sharjah where we have not lost this year. I want to thank you, we know we have to play for our fans and hopefully, we know what are the standings tonight.
“We play Islamabad in Dubai and book our tickets to Karachi. I am just glad that we are in the playoffs. I remember one incident that after playing one game, I told the coach that congratulations for tonight but see you in the playoffs. He told me that your team will not go in the playoff, so now I am going to send him a nice message tell him I am in the playoff and its for you to join me.
“The God has been good to us so praise must go to the almighty.”