Time for KRL duo to shine on international stage

Kaleemullah against Maldives
Kaleemullah against Maldives

by Umaid Wasim/DAWN

KARACHI: For Khan Research Laboratories (KRL)’s duo Kaleemullah and Mohammad Adil, it is the perfect opportunity to showcase their talent.

Provided, of course, how Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic uses them during the national team’s friendly matches against Nepal and the Maldives.

Stars for KRL during their sensational PPFL title triumph, Kaleemullah and Adil now need to translate their domestic form on the international stage if they are to fulfill their aspirations.

Both players have already caught the eye of Asian clubs but solid performances against Nepal on Feb 6 and Feb 9 and against the Maldives on Feb 12 and Feb 14 will certainly go a long way in boosting their burgeoning reputations.

Muhammad Adil with Pak U22“Playing for the national team is always a big honour,” Adil, the stocky left-winger, told Dawn last month. “There are often scouts who come to our international matches and I hope that I impress them with my playing style.”

While Adil has been remarkable on the wing, it is Kaleemullah who was undoubtedly the star of the PPFL last season.

The nifty forward, who smashed all records in scoring an all-time season-high 32 goals last season, has been likened to Iranian legend Ali Daei by KRL coach Tariq Lutfi for his playing style.

A brave comparison to the player who holds the record for being the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer in international matches.

What, however, remains to be seen is whether Kaleemullah can perform for Pakistan as well as he performs for KRL. In the recent tour to Singapore, Milosavljevic used the striker as a midfielder but his recent goal-scoring exploits warrant a starting berth for Kaleemullah as a centre-forward.

“I love to play for the national team,” Kaleemullah said in a recent interview. “I hope to perform well on the international scene and score goals as it would raise my profile along with the image of the game in the country.”

The squad for the upcoming assignment, however, will be without Karachi Electric Supply Company hit-man Mohammad Rasool.

Rasool, the second-highest goal-scorer in the PPFL with 26 goals last season, is injured and was unable to attend the national team camp which was underway in Lahore since Jan 28.

Rasool’s absence presents Denmark-based strike duo of Hassan Bashir and Mohammad Ali to show their mettle.

“They are technically very good players,” Pakistan assistant coach Shahzad Anwar told Dawn ahead of their departure to Nepal on Monday. “Ali is a very good striker and possesses very good skills.”

Discussing formations, Shahzad said that Pakistan will play in a traditional 4-4-2 with Naveed Ahmed and another Denmark-based player Yaqoob Butt providing options in midfield.

“We have three proven midfielders in Adil, Yasir Afridi and Faisal Iqbal and while Naveed can play as the right-sided midfielder, Yaqoob is a solid defensive midfielder,” he said. The friendlies will help Pakistan establish a solid squad for the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers scheduled for March.

“It is good that we can play against teams like Nepal and the Maldives who are higher than us in the FIFA rankings,” Shehzad said.

Positive results in the four matches will help Pakistan move up in the FIFA rankings table where they currently lie at a dismal 189th spot. Pakistan lowest-ever ranking was 192nd — in December 2001.

“Expectations are always high,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said, “and we hope that good results will come sooner rather than later.”