Zalmi working to realise dreams of Pakhtunkhwa

Our Correspondent
Monday, Feb 12, 2024

LAHORE: Peshawar Zalmi carries the burden of expectations of millions from the battle-hardened province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), for whom cricket has become a source of identity, pride and joy.

The Pashto word Zalmi – translating to youth – holds a profound meaning in the rich cultural tapestry of the region. This essence is encapsulated in their logo as well, with the turban standing tall as a significant symbol. Javed Afridi, the owner of the franchise, had a clear vision; an aim to bring back joy to the people of Pakistan especially to the province of KP. “Owning a cricket team, especially Peshawar Zalmi, transcended the realm of a business venture for me; it was a profound calling fueled by an unwavering love for the sport and a sincere concern for the state of cricket in Pakistan,” Javed recalled.

Peshawar Zalmi began their HBL PSL journey on a high note when the Shahid Afridi-led team reached the play-offs of the inaugural season, played in 2016. Daren Sammy – then West Indian skipper and reigning T20 World Cup champion, was part of Zalmi’s squad. Since then, Sammy has been staunchly attached to the franchise, while matching Zalmi’s zeal to bring back international cricket in Pakistan.

The second edition of the League saw Zalmi win the final, played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. With Shahid not available due to injury, Sammy led Peshawar to a 58-run victory against Quetta Gladiators.

The title wasn’t just a triumph for Peshawar Zalmi; it unfolded as a grand victory echoing through the streets and hearts of the entire city and its resilient people. Fans of the Peshawar-based franchise revelled in the joy of seeing their own team play and clinch the first-ever title on home soil.

“Peshawar, like many regions, had faced its fair share of challenges, compounded by a notable dearth of entertainment options for its residents. The significance of bringing home the title surpassed the realm of a mere cricketing achievement; it became a unifying force that reverberated across the entire Pashtun community and beyond,” Javed shared.

Determined to help expand the sport at a higher level, the franchise has also reached out to cricketers from lesser known cricketing territories such as China by roping in a couple of budding Chinese cricketers and providing them with the feel of the game and atmosphere to help develop the talent.

“Global Zalmi, our flagship initiative, stands at the forefront of our global aspirations. With 32 registered cricket clubs worldwide, this dynamic expression of our commitment to cricket’s global growth is a testament to our dedication. As a future plan, we aim to expand this network to all continents,” he highlighted.

In the subsequent season, Zalmi’s impressive form continued and carried them to their second consecutive final. The side ended as runners-up against Islamabad United, who clinched their second title.

In 2019, Peshawar Zalmi played their third consecutive final; this time losing to Quetta Gladiators.

Zalmi struggled in the fifth edition of the League – played in 2020 and impacted by COVID – and finished at fourth place. In the following year, they bounced back and qualified for their fourth final although Multan Sultans clinched the title.

The seventh edition of HBL PSL saw a different Peshawar Zalmi emerge with Sammy as the head coach. With six wins in the tournament, the team finished at third position. The following year, Babar Azam – Pakistan’s premier batter – joined the franchise to lead Peshawar Zalmi to the play-offs where they lost to defending champions Lahore Qalandars and missed out on a berth in the final.

In the past eight editions of the HBL PSL, Peshawar Zalmi hold the best record as they have featured in four finals and have at least reached the play-offs on every other occasion. They aim to exhibit their best in future seasons as well, while also looking forward to playing at their home turf one day.

“The plan on our horizon is to continue amassing titles, not merely as a testament to our cricketing prowess but as a promise to the people of Peshawar who eagerly await to see their favorite players in action on their home ground,” Javed concluded.