Don’t know if I Will be Picked in England’s World Cup Squad But You Never Know: Phil Salt
Phil Salt (© AFP)

England’s 23-year-old batsman Phil Salt speaks about his recent experience in the Big Bash League, his admiration for Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan, why he is looking forward to working with Misbah-ul-Haq at Islamabad United, reasons for joining the MCC tour of Pakistan and his aspirations for participation in this year’s ICC T20 World Cup.

You recently enjoyed a successful Big Bash League with Adelaide Strikers, how was that experience?

It was a great experience going over there to Australia and playing in a different type of cricket environment, on different surfaces and playing against a group of bowlers who mostly I had not faced before. I was pretty happy with how it went especially with my performances around finals time when you feel the pinch a bit more. But I was disappointed that we didn’t go that little bit further in the competition.

How do you see your role within Twenty20 cricket?

I feel that one of the best things about my game and I have been told this by the franchises and team statisticians that I have played for is that I get going quickly in my innings and I am one of the best in the world after the first few deliveries faced, so that way I don’t need a lot of deliveries to start building an innings. I’ve been asked to do various roles in the batting order such as play in the middle-order for Lahore Qalandars but I feel that my best position at the moment is at the top of the order.

You played alongside Rashid Khan at both Sussex and Adelaide Strikers. What’s it like playing in the same team as such a fantastic cricketer?

I love playing in the same team as Rashid and what makes it even more special is that he’s a good friend of mine. It was great to be around him at the Big Bash League and I feel that he is already a legend. His cricket and his records speak for themselves – What a match-winner he is!

During last year’s Pakistan Super League there was a lovely picture of you with security personnel in Pakistan that became very popular. How was the experience of being in Pakistan?

It was a really good experience. Pakistan is a beautiful place and the crowds and all the people I met just blew me away with their passion for cricket which is virtually second to none. It was really cool to go over there and I can’t wait to go back for this year’s PSL. And yes, that picture did the rounds and I was quite pleased with that. In fact, one of my friends messaged me to tell me that it was very popular on twitter and was trending and it was only replaced as the top trend when Adam Lallana scored for Liverpool versus Southampton. It was great for an image like that to be shared, whether it was of me or someone else.

Are you looking forward to the whole of this year’s Pakistan Super League being held in Pakistan?

Definitely. Last year I wanted to go to Lahore and Islamabad, but it wasn’t to be. I wanted to experience playing in Lahore as I had heard a lot about the city and the passion for cricket there and of course to Islamabad, as I wanted to play in front of our home fans. But this year I can’t wait to experience the food in Lahore as the boys have been telling me about how great the food is over there. Last year I went to Kolachi restaurant in Karachi and the food there was beautiful, and that kind of experience is definitely one of the things that I am looking forward to again during this year’s PSL.

How highly do you rate Islamabad United’s chances at this year’s Pakistan Super League?

Their record speaks for itself. They are former title-winners, with good personnel at the franchise. I’m pretty excited at the chance to work with Misbah-ul-Haq who has played so much cricket and knows the game inside out and I’m looking forward to tapping into his knowledge. It’s going to be a hard-fought tournament and I hope that Islamabad will be there or thereabouts when it comes to winning the title.

How does the Pakistan Super League compare with other Twenty20 tournaments you have played in?

The PSL is the best tournament I have played in when it comes to the standard of bowling. In all the other competitions there are one or sometimes two bowlers who you fancy your chances against and that you can take a calculated risk against, but in the PSL the bowlers are so good in their own conditions. On top of that, they have the ability to reverse-swing the ball and have that sort of knowledge of their wickets that makes it harder for guys coming into bat. So, in the PSL there are very few bowlers that you fancy your chances against or that can be deemed as a weak link.

You’ll soon join the MCC squad touring Pakistan and will play one match. How did the opportunity arise to play for the MCC in Pakistan?

Ajmal Shehzad is one of the coaches on the tour and it so happens that Ajmal and I have been friends for a few years. We used to travel together up and down the country when I was at the Academy at Sussex and we both lived in Yorkshire. Ajmal used to give me a lift up and down the motorway from Yorkshire to Sussex and we became very close friends. When he asked me if I wanted to go back to Pakistan with the MCC the answer obviously was yes straight away. But the problem was that it didn’t quite work out with the timings and it wouldn’t have been ideal for me to go from playing all the matches for the MCC and straight into the PSL, so I thought after the Big Bash League I would take a bit of a break, get some rest and get some freshness back. Therefore, I agreed to play only one match for the MCC in Pakistan before the PSL.

With the MCC touring Pakistan, the tours by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and now the PSL being played entirely in Pakistan, there is a concerted effort to bring international cricket back to Pakistan. Do you feel you are a part of something more than just cricket?

Yes, the MCC tour has a special meaning and all the players involved sort of get that idea especially when talking to the Pakistani players about this subject. That perception is reinforced when we go over to Pakistan and see the reception you get from the fans, and then see your face on billboards in various cities. I guess for everyone who isn’t Pakistani, it will be difficult to appreciate the importance of the visit by the MCC or any other team of foreign players – the scale of it and the feelings around such visits is simply unbelievable.

You’ll get the chance to work with Kumar Sangakkara during the tour by MCC, that’s a fantastic opportunity for you isn’t it?

Working with Kumar Sangakkara is yet another chance to learn from someone who has played loads of cricket and knows so much about the game. That’s where I am at the minute, I’m just trying to learn from as many people as possible and use their knowledge to help me become a better player, quicker. The advice that Sangakkara will be able to pass on to me is second to none and I can’t wait to tap into that knowledge.

Is participation in this year’s ICC T20 World Cup a realistic target for you?

Absolutely. I don’t know if I will be picked for the World Cup squad, but then you never sort of know with these things. Sometimes chances like these can come today, tomorrow, in a month’s time, or even in a year’s time. All I know is that I am working really hard at the minute to keep on improving and to keep putting the performances in and I’ll keep doing that and hopefully I’ll get there sooner rather than later.

Playing in Twenty20 leagues around the world such as the Pakistan Super League must be seen as a great help for your international aspirations and profile?

I’m all about learning at the moment and going to all these places and playing in these leagues and learning more about my game will help me get to my goals that much quicker. As I said, I am happy to be experiencing the high standards in the Pakistan Super League and loving the whole fan-fair of the Big Bash League. Playing in such environments is allowing me exposure to different and very competitive leagues where I am playing against different opponents. All this can only help my cricket and to help me reach the destination of international cricket quicker.

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