ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif felicitated the national cricket team on Tuesday in an event held to award the cricketers for winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Addressing the participants of the gathering which included federal ministers, cricket team members and their families besides other prominent personalities, Nawaz Sharif said he was thrilled at the performance of the national cricket team in the tournament and he had watched the whole match against India which Pakistan won by 180 runs to clinch the title.
“You are the Prime Minister, not me,” he said, gesturing towards the national team. “You are the real heroes of the nation,” he added.
On the occasion, the PM asked Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan to not plead any foreign team to visit the country. “There is no need to plead with any country to visit Pakistan,” said the premier, adding all those who want to play in Pakistan are welcome in the country.
The premier also spoke about his passion for the sport of cricket, recalling that he would have trouble sleeping at times when it was time for important matches.
“When I used to play cricket, I was particularly annoyed at bowlers who bowled bouncers at me,” he said. “I always used to pull them for a boundary,” he added.
Nawaz Sharif said that he was aware of the fact that there were fewer grounds in Pakistan and said that he would try to improve the situation in order to promote more cricketing talent in the country.
The Prime Minister further said that as a young man once he was kicked out of a cricket ground. Forced to leave the ground, Nawaz Sharif said that he was extremely disappointed.
“It was really difficult for me to leave the ground,” he said. “It felt extremely painful, even more painful than the Panama Leaks,” he joked, as participants roared with laughter. “Even more difficult than the JIT.”
During his speech Nawaz Sharif spoke highly of his performance after taking over the reins of the country in 2013. “It looked like Pakistan would default in a matter of six months,” he said.
“However, thanks to the grace of God, we were able to pull the country out of darkness and put it on to the path of development,” he added.
The premier rewarded every member of the Trophy winning squad with a prize of 10 million rupees ($100 000) while members of the team management received five million rupees ($50 000).
Big reward for Sarfraz
PCB chairperson Shaharyar Khan named Sarfraz as Test captain at the ceremony. “I take this opportunity to announce Ahmed as our Test captain in addition to one-day and T20 captain,” Khan said.
The 30-year-old will lead Pakistan in the three-match Test series against Sri Lanka, likely to be held on the neutral venue of the United Arab Emirates in October.
Ahmed has already led Pakistan in nine one-day internationals since last year, winning seven and losing two. He has also led in eight Twenty20s, winning seven and losing just one.
The Test captaincy had been vacant since Misbah-ul-Haq retired after winning a three-match Test series 2-1 in the West Indies in May this year.
Ahmed said leading Pakistan in all three formats is a great honour. “I am honoured to be appointed Test captain,” he said during the ceremony.
“I will do my best to lift the team in all three formats and will not rest on Champions Trophy laurels.”
Earlier, the victorious Pakistan cricket team reached the Prime Minister House on Tuesday. All-rounder Shoaib Malik thanked the PM for inviting the team.
Speaking at the event, batsman Azhar Ali said as a team “we enjoyed the tournament.” He added that the captain boosted the team’s morale after the initial defeat.
The family members of the players are accompanying the team, which is lodged at a private hotel in the capital.