Lahore Lions have potential to enter CLT20 main draw: Hafeez

Lahore Lions have potential to enter CLT20 main draw: Hafeez

Proudly leading the Lahore Lions into the Champions League Twenty20, Pakistan all-rounder Muhammad Hafeez said that his team has the firepower and ability to handle pressure and make it to the main draw of the lucrative league.

The Lahore Lions squad, which leaves tonight will play their qualifying matches at Raipur to find out if they can qualify for the main rounds - a feat that no other Pakistan outfit has ever achieved.

"It is a tough challenge for us but the fact that we are playing in India is a big spur on for the players and what gives me confidence is our team combination," Hafeez told PTI in an interview today.

"We have six international players (Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema) all of whom have proven they can handle pressure of playing in a big event and in front of big crowds. And the other players are also battle hardened and capable of winning matches on their own," Hafeez said.

The non-international players include a budding all-round leg-spinner Saad Naseem, spinners Adnan Rasool, Mustafa Ali and Ali Manzoor, batsman Hamad Butt and pacer Imran Ali.

All the players have done well at the domestic level except for a little-known Ali Manzoor.

"The key to success will be how we handle pressure. If we can do that we can play in the main rounds. Our preparations as a team have not been ideal for such a big event but we know it is a big platform for us to enhance Pakistan cricket's image and bring joy to our countrymen," Hafeez said.

The former Pakistan T20 captain who has played before in India said that his team would have three days in India to organize themselves and gel as a unit.

"The heavy rains in Lahore have affected our preparations and then the board also scheduled fitness tests so yes our preparations have not been what we would have liked."

"I have already told them that when as a Pakistani you play in India there is lot of pressure and also expectations from you. Not only from your own people but also the Indian crowds who have respect for our cricket and our cricket achievements," he added.

"It was Venky Mysore's idea to keep the camp in the off season to provide the ultimate opportunity to these KKR players. It was certainly a great exposure for the players as it provided a perfect getaway to train in South Africa," KKR Team Director Joy Bhattacharya told PTI.

"It was a nice off-season exercise for the players. It will certainly add to their resume and to train under top facilities in Bloemfontein under world class trainers like Adrian Le Roux is a great opportunity. And I am sure all these four players will benefit from this outing," he added.

While Yusuf is hoping for a return to the national team soon, leg-spinner Piyush is also looking for an opportunity to sneak into the team before the 2015 World Cup.

Yusuf, 31, has represented India in 57 ODIs and played 22 T20s for the Men in Blue before falling out of favour after a slump in form. He was also a part of the World Cup-winning squad in 2011.

Chawla, who has had a start and stop career since he made his Test debut in 2006, will also be banking on a good CLT20 showing to make a return to the national fold.

Meanwhile, Bisla and Kuldeep are still waiting to be capped as the duo try and make their mark in tournaments like the IPL and the CLT20.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Bisla, 27, who is a veteran of 49 first-class matches, has represented Deccan Chargers, Kings XI Punjab and now KKR in IPL.

Kanpur-born Yadav though is a lesser-known slow left-arm Chinaman is eager to make his presence felt in any KKR play their opening game against Chennai Super Kings on September 17 at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Uppal, Hyderabad.

With captain Gambhir not doing well in the England series, KKR will surely to looking to start from where they left in this year's IPL.

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