PSL 2021: UAE spinner Sultan Ahmed steps up to the big leagues with Lahore Qalandars

Left-arm spinner had represented franchise in Abu Dhabi T10

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This time last year, Sultan Ahmed was doing his best to stay fit during lockdown in his apartment in Sharjah by doing squats with his son on his shoulders.

What a difference 12 months makes. From wondering when precisely he would be able to return to cricket back then, the UAE bowler was this week able to celebrate a dream fulfilled after he was drafted into the Pakistan Super League.

The left-arm spinner, 31, was called in to the Lahore Qalandars squad as replacement player, ahead of the league's resumption in Abu Dhabi next month.

The PSL was suspended at the start of March after a Covid outbreak among a number of the teams.

After the remaining 20 matches were rescheduled and relocated to the UAE, a variety of foreign players from the original playing rosters were left unavailable.

Shakib Al Hasan was initially called in as a replacement for Qalandars, only to be taken off for national duty with Bangladesh instead.

To cover his overs of left-arm spin, Qalandars plumped for a player they already knew well.

Sultan has been rewarded for his excellence over the past two season representing the team of the same name in the Abu Dhabi T10 league.

And it is fair to say the franchise have at least one new, die-hard fan in their midst thanks to their recruitment drive.

“All my family and friends are so happy – and especially my son,” Sultan said of five-year-old Abubakar.

"After getting a place in Lahore Qalandars my son has been singing the team's name, and Main Hun Qalandar Dil Se [the team's anthem for this season].

"This moment is really great for me, to feel that I’m making my family proud, and especially UAE cricket.”

Sultan will be the lone UAE international involved in the PSL, although there will be other home involvement.

Mohammed Wasim, who is one of the outstanding players in UAE domestic cricket but has yet to represent the national team, has been called up as a replacement for Multan Sultans.

Usman Khan, the Quetta Gladiators batsman, is also a prolific run-scorer in the domestic game, having moved here from Pakistan last year.

“It was like a dream come true when I saw my name in PSL,” Sultan said.

“Everyone who is representing any country wants to play in big leagues like Big Bash, PSL, IPL, T20 Blast and the others. I was confident that, Inshallah, I will play in big leagues one day.

“The first time I played in T10 and performed well, they picked me according to the needs of the team.

“Thanks to Aaqib [Javed, the UAE coach] and Sameen Rana [the chief operating officer]. They trusted me, asked me about fitness and gave me the green signal.

“I was trying to put my 100 per cent best effort in T10 and tried my best. I’m lucky I was playing for Qalandars because Aaqib and Sameen are known for giving opportunities to every performer.

“You can see from the beginning they know what they are doing. So I was positive about to get a chance in the PSL.”

Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan spinner, is unexpectedly available for the Qalandars. He was due to play for Sussex in the English T20 competition, but will remain in UAE and play for his PSL franchise instead.

Sultan is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with one of franchise cricket’s brightest stars.

“Rashid is playing and it will be a great experience to be with him,” Sultan said.

“Pressure will be there, but as a bowler who can do bowling even with new ball, it will not affect me. I will try to give 100 per cent.”