ISLAMABAD -  Emerging all-rounder Ali Imran left for Sri Lanka Thursday with Imran Nazir Cricket Academy to play 8-nation mixed cricket tournament in Colombo.

Talking to The Nation prior to his departure, Test cricketer Imran Nazir said: “After winning the inaugural tournament in the UAE, we are upbeat about our chances of winning this event as well. We have some quality Test players in our side, besides, some U-19 players including talented Ali Imran, who plays for former Test cricketer M Wasim Academy. Ali impressed not only me during the UAE tournament, but also other teams. I know he was playing in the National One-Day Cup 2016-17 for Islamabad Region, which was a dream debut for his region, and leaving such important event was never easy, but I am grateful to Islamabad Region [resident Shakil Shaikh for allowing him to represent Pakistan in an important event in Colombo.

“We need a quality player like Ali, who remained instrumental for Pakistan during the 5-nation Cup in UAE and played tournament-winning innings against India in the final. It is good that Ali can play at any given number and also can also bowl some quick deliveries and claim easy wickets, which helps him to be an integral part of the team,” he added.

Imran said the tournament was called International Cricket Premier League (ICPL) and it would feature teams from Test-playing nations including Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, with each team to have six U-19 players and five senior iconic players. The eight teams would be divided into two groups and play in a qualifying round of matches at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo, while the top two teams of each group would play in the semifinals at the Premadasa Stadium, while the final would also be played at the same venue, he added.

Former Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya has been named as the brand ambassador for the event, as the organisers expect him to be a role model for the youngsters. The tournament is being organised by Ali Tours and Travels, headed by Ali Asfak Thara, who owns a cricket academy in Bangalore, India. The matches will be played on T20 format.

Sharing his views, Ali said: “It is a golden opportunity for me, as I learnt a lot while playing alongside Rana Naved, Imran Nazir and other stars. Yes, it is quite hurting that I have to leave my region in the One-Day Cup, but my prayers are with Islamabad. I know Zohaib Ahmed is a very good skipper and a quality human being and will lead the side and land title again.”

“Cricket is my passion and it is in my blood. Since I started growing up, I had only watched cricket greats coming to our home, as my father, Ajmal Sabir, is also a cricketer and an administrator and holds a number of posts with Islamabad and Rawalpindi Regions. Besides, he is also running veteran team. I always dreamt of taking a step ahead and fulfill my father’s dream of representing my region first and then the national team.

“I am thankful to Islamabad Region [resident Shakil Shaikh, who is like a father to all of us, for providing not only me but also a number of other players chances to fulfill our passion. I am sure his hard work, dedication and passion will work wonders for Pakistan cricket, which will rise to new heights,” Ali concluded.