KARACHI: The first phase of the second edition of players’ development programme “Jazz Rising Stars” by the PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars received an overwhelming response from the aspiring Qalandars.
Around 160,000 aspiring players appeared in trials at eight different venues.
The total number of players’ registration was 302,173 while 159,935 players appeared in the trials, according to a Lahore Qalandars official.
Last year, around 113,000 players participated in the programme.
Trials were conducted at Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Layyah, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Azad Kashmir (Mirpur and Muzaffarabad), and Bahawalpur for the second edition of the programme. 128 players who were picked collectively are now part of eight different Rising Stars teams.
The franchise, for the first time, added Kashmir to its players’ development programme and kicked it off from the picturesque valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Around 35,000 aspiring Qalandars participated in trials collectively in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. Trials were also conducted in seven different cities of Punjab to recruit eight teams for the Rising Stars tournament.
The tournament, starting on September 26, will include teams from Azad Kashmir, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Layyah, Bahawalpur, Lahore, Gujranwala, and Faisalabad.
“Our priority at every venue was to select players on the basis of merit,” said CEO of Lahore Qalandars, Atif Rana.
“I didn’t interfere in any selection-related matter,” he said. “Selectors, led by Aaqib Javed, were fully empowered to pick the squad on the basis of their own judgement of [the players’] skills.”
The trials were not held for mere formality. “We have found numerous talented players, especially fast bowlers and fast bowling all-rounders,” said Lahore Qalandars’ Director of Cricket Aqib Javed told Geo.tv.
“We have spotted at least 20 bowlers who bowl at over 87mph and have great prospects,” Aaqib said. “They can serve Pakistan cricket in the future.”
Haris Rauf and Salman Irshad, both fast bowlers, spotted in Gujranwala and Azad Kashmir respectively are among the talented bowlers spotted by the Lahore Qalandars.
“This [Rising Stars programme] is the best thing [to have happened] in my life,” Aaqib said. “There were many challenges but I am glad that we defied all odds and delivered something to Pakistan cricket…I am very proud to be a part of it.”
With the first phase of Jazz Rising Stars now concluded, the selected players are now set for the second stage of the programme. The eight-team tournament will commence in Muzaffarabad on September 26.
Of the 128 players participating in the Rising Stars tournament, 16 will be picked to represent the Lahore Qalandars Rising Stars team.
The team will travel to Australia to participate in a triangular tournament in Sydney. Four of the top performers will get the opportunity to be part of the Lahore Qalandars’ PSL squad.