Luke Wright: “Ahmed Shehzad will be a very important player for Pakistan”

One of the star attractions in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Luke Wright is a popular inclusion in Twenty20 leagues around the world. The 30-year -old has represented England in 101 international games, scoring 1466 runs.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion, Wright spoke about his disappointment at not being selected for the England World T20 squad, his impressions of the ongoing PSL tournament, Ahmed Shehzad’s exclusion from Pakistan’s World T20 squad as well as Pakistan’s chances in that tournament.

PakPassion (PP): How disappointed are you about missing selection for the ICC World T20 squad for England?

Luke Wright (LW): I think disappointment is the right word here, as one always wants to play in major tournaments like the World T20 for your country. Having said that, I have to admit that the team is playing some amazing cricket at the moment and have some wonderful young players in the mix.

All in all, it is a tough squad to get into but I will say in my defence that in the last few years, I have played very well in different conditions and sometimes you do as much as you can which is what I have done but if you don’t get picked, then there is no point feeling bitter about it. You just keep going and do what I am doing which is to enjoy my cricket.

PP : Do you feel that you are now reaching a point where it will become difficult to be picked for England squads in the future?

LW : Well the next Twenty20 World Cup will be in 2020 and given that I am thirty now, I may well be too old for that edition of the tournament. Then, who knows? You never say never and you keep on playing and doing the best you can. I just feel that I am lucky that I travel round the world playing cricket and if I can keep on scoring runs and keeping all those sides happy, then who knows what happens in the future.

PP: How do you rate England’s chances in the upcoming World T20?

LW : England will be up against some very tough opposition in this tournament. You always tend to favour the sub-continental sides in tournaments held in that part of the world, as they understand the conditions well, and play spin bowling very well. Having said that, England has a good squad with some good results to show in the recent past. They have a lot of hitting and bowling power and it will come down to whether they can perform well in that tournament or not. So, it will be tough but then when you look at some of the players in the England line-up, you will see that they have some excellent match-winners.

PP: Moving on to the PSL, are you impressed by the overall standard of this tournament?

LW: The standard of the whole tournament has been excellent. From what I understand, there are many very good players in Pakistan who have been left out of the teams as the competition for places is pretty tough. So the best local players have been picked and that has been complemented with the standard of play as presented by the overseas players. I suppose the only missing bit which we always knew would be an issue is the presence of crowds at the games. However, what we have been seeing in Sharjah in terms of crowds has been very heartening and we also know that we have a lot of people watching these games in Pakistan where there is a huge following. The tournament has been organized very well and as players we are all focused on doing our job which is to play to the best of our abilities.

PP: Given the concerns regarding crowds, it must be great to see full houses in Sharjah watching these games?

LW: As a player, you always want to play for the crowds that are the reason you start playing in the first place. Whilst we have a lot of interest in Sharjah, we may not necessarily have that many people in the crowd in Dubai but you know that there are millions watching on TV in Pakistan and that is motivation enough for us to go out there and perform well.

PP: How important is the PSL for the development of younger players which was one of the objectives behind the tournament?

LW: The PSL can only help in this goal. We have already seen this happen in India where the IPL has played a key role in achieving this objective. We should see similar results with the young guys playing alongside top Pakistan international players as well as overseas players like Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle and Andre Russell to name a few. There is a great opportunity to learn from the senior players for the younger group of players in a tournament where the standard is really good. This is just the first year of the PSL, it is a great start, and it will only get better from now on so it is a great chance for the young players to learn over the coming years.

PP: Which players in the PSL have impressed you the most?

LW: Oh that is a difficult question as there are so many excellent players in the PSL, who are doing well and have impressed me and I would not know where to start. Obviously, the younger guys in our squad would be my first pick but my fellow countryman, Ravi Bopara has been a stand-out performer so far. I really do believe that by looking at the younger Pakistan players in the PSL that Pakistan’s future in cricket is very bright.

PP: What are your thoughts on team-mate Mohammad Nawaz who has been selected for the Pakistan WT20 squad?

LW: He is a very smart bowler, a nice and humble guy. I think he will do a great job for Pakistan with his all-round capabilities. Apart from taking wickets throughout this tournament, he also scored a pretty smart 42 against Lahore Qalandars the other day. He will do very well for Pakistan in the future and he is also lucky to have some good advice from the very experienced Zulfiqar Babar in the Quetta team.

PP: Do you believe that Quetta Gladiators have surprised everyone with their success so far in the PSL?

LW: I think we have shown everyone what we are capable of. We have a great combination of specialist bowlers as well as all-rounders. Apart from our strength on the field, we have a team, which is very well run by Moin Khan who is a very relaxed person to work with. So we have a good mix of experienced and younger players and above all we are enjoying our time together. In terms of specific areas of strength, I would say that having a good set of all-rounders is important, especially with someone like Anwar Ali coming in later in the order makes us a very strong batting line-up as well. With the ball we also have some robust options and that makes for a very strong and balanced squad.

PP: How important has the role of Sir Viv Richards been for the Quetta Gladiators?

LW: Simply put, he is a mentor for the team and he does speak to the guys a lot and shares his vast experience. He was, as we all know, one the best players to play cricket ever so there is a lot we can all learn from him. From the seniors to the younger guys, we all speak to him about batting in different situations and how to preserve our wickets. It is a pleasure to have him around and also great for the competition that such personalities are involved in the PSL.

PP: You appear to be very popular amongst Pakistan fans; how do you explain this?

LW: I am not sure myself! I suppose in this form of cricket, providing entertainment in the form of fours and sixes whilst batting in the top order will always win you friends. On top of that, people probably enjoy watching me bat with Ahmed Shehzad, so that could be another reason. I am enjoying my cricket and have done well so far and if I can continue like that, then I will pick more fans along the way.


PP: Any advice for Ahmed Shehzad at a time when he must be disappointed at not being picked for Pakistan’s WT20 squad?

LW: Yes, both Kevin Pietersen and I spoke to Ahmed on this subject. Fact is that we have all been left out of our country’s squad at some point in our careers. There aren’t too many people who go through their career without being left out of the team and it is important to not dwell upon this but to work at getting back into the team. In my experience, even the best England players like Ian Bell have been left out but came back to make important contributions for the squad. Ahmed Shehzad is only 24 and he is a very good player and I do believe that he will be a very important player for Pakistan cricket in the future. What he needs to do now is to go away and makes lots of runs and he will be back in the squad soon.

PP: How enjoyable is it to play in Twenty20 leagues around the world?

LW:  Very enjoyable! That is just the way my career has gone really. I have been playing in the Big Bash recently and then this tournament has come around which fits in my schedule perfectly. It is a nice lifestyle. I have been in Australia for six to seven weeks and now I am in Dubai/Sharjah playing in the PSL. Most importantly, I have learnt a lot in this way. I have learnt to play on different tracks and here, I have been speaking to Pakistan players about how to play spin and even at the age of thirty, I feel that I am still learning. That way I feel that I am a better player now than what I was two to three years ago.

PP: Based on what you have seen so far in the PSL, how do you rate Pakistan’s chances in the upcoming World T20?

LW: I believe Pakistan have a good chance of impressing in the World T20. They are all very skilful players and most importantly, they know the conditions very well. In my personal view, they would have had a better chance if they had Ahmed Shehzad in the side but even without him, the squad is a strong one and very difficult to beat.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion, where the article first appeared)