Ice vests and extra breaks for PSL players as weather poses biggest challenge in Abu Dhabi

Islamabad United's Usman Khawaja expects conditions to be harder for batsmen

The last time he made a trip to the UAE to play competitive cricket, Rashid Khan’s workload was of record-breaking intensity.

No one else had bowled as many balls in a Test match this century than he did when playing for Afghanistan against Zimbabwe at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in March.

In the space of four consecutive days he bowled 596 deliveries – the most in a Test match since Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan took 16 wickets to beat England at The Oval in 1998. That, too, having only just been passed fit to play after recovering from a broken finger.

And yet the Abu Dhabi Sunshine series, as that meeting was known as, might have been a more manageable test than that what is set to face Rashid and the rest of the players at the Pakistan Super League.

When the season resumes in the capital on Wednesday, it will represent the first time elite, professional cricket is played in this country in June.

According to forecasts, the temperature will feel-like 45°C at around the time the first ball is sent down in the game between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars, which will be 8pm Abu Dhabi time on single match days. For the double-header days, it will be 5pm for the first match.

Teams are planning to kit out players with ice vests. There will be extra breaks permitted. Still, it is going to be a challenge.

“I am used to a bit of humidity, coming from Queensland back at home, which is tropical and very humid,” said Usman Khawaja, who will be playing in the PSL for the first time, having signed up for Islamabad.

“But this humidity is as next-level as I have ever had it. The only thing that comes close is in Colombo.

“I actually think that T20 is the only format of cricket where batting is possibly harder than bowling. For bowlers, it is only four overs, and then you go and field.

“For batsmen, you could be batting for 10 overs. In those 10 overs, you could be sprinting 10 twos, a few threes and a few ones.

“With gear on, with your helmet on, if you score runs and are in for at least 10 overs, then T20 for batsmen can be even harder.”

The new schedule for the tournament includes six double headers. “It is about trying to keep hydrated are often as you need to,” Khawaja said.

“I think the challenge will be playing back-to-back-to-back games. I think there is a period where each of the teams are playing two games in a row.

“That is going to be a challenge, and teams will have to be smart. It is hard enough to do that schedule when it is good conditions. When it is like this, it adds that extra element.

“When the game happens, the adrenaline takes over, and you are concentrating on the bat and ball.

“You forget about the rest to some extent. It is only afterwards when you come home and you feel pain. I think we are used to it as professionals.”

The humidity means the pitch conditions will be different to those which Rashid faced back in March, when he took 11 wickets in the Test to beat Zimbabwe.

The Afghanistan leg-spinner, though, says he is unconcerned by the conditions, and is focused instead on bowling Lahore to success.

“I never think about the pitch a lot,” said Rashid, who has been given leave from England’s T20 county competition to play for Lahore in Abu Dhabi.

“If I play in Abu Dhabi, I play in Pakistan, or if I play wherever, it is all about how you bowl in the game. That is what matters to me a lot.

“I always think about doing well, and that shouldn’t be dependent on the conditions.

"As long as I am bowling my best deliveries, bowling in the right areas, whatever pitch, it can be difficult for any batsman.”

Updated: June 6, 2021 04:04 PM

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