PSL is not just a spec­ta­cle but a stage for new tal­ent

Saj Sadiq casts an an­a­lyt­i­cal eye over the Pak­istan Su­per League and its star names

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

Lights, cam­era, ac­tion is the phrase usu­ally re­served for Hol­ly­wood block­busters but the same re­frain was heard in abun­dance in the UAE yes­ter­day as the sec­ond edi­tion of the Pak­istan Su­per League kicked off in style at the Dubai Sports City Sta­dium.

For the mil­lions of sup­port­ers and ad­mir­ers of the unique brand of Pak­istan cricket, the PSL tour­na­ment rep­re­sents more than just a T20 jam­boree.

The ab­sence of in­ter­na­tional cricket in Pak­istan has de­prived the na­tion of watch­ing top-level crick­eters from around the world, with many left to look with envy at the pop­u­lar­ity and suc­cess of other ma­jor tour­na­ments like the IPL and Big Bash.

The ad­vent of the PSL, now in its sec­ond edi­tion, rep­re­sents a quan­tum leap in the qual­ity of T20 cricket pre­vi­ously seen un­der a Pak­istan ban­ner.

The coun­try’s best play­ers will be in­volved and the level of com­pe­ti­tion should also help pro­vide qual­ity, emerg­ing crick­eters ready to step up to the na­tional team – a by-prod­uct seen for India and Aus­tralia re­spec­tively in the IPL and Big Bash.

With five fran­chises com­pet­ing for the hon­our of lift­ing the tro­phy in La­hore on March 5, the stakes for this year’s com­pe­ti­tion could not be higher.

Named af­ter the main re­gions of Pak­istan, the teams have as­sem­bled an ex­cel­lent ar­ray of ex­pe­ri­enced Pak­istan play­ers as well as up and com­ing tal­ents who will be sup­ported by a daz­zling ar­ray of top in­ter­na­tional stars.

To con­sider any one team as a favourite in PSL 2017 is a folly.

In the first edi­tion of the PSL, Is­lam­abad United, a team re­garded as un­der­dogs and lack­ing the ex­cit­ing, crowd-pulling names of other fran­chises won with a team that con­tained many age­ing prac­ti­tion­ers.

But they also pro­duced one of Pak­istan’s most promis­ing bat­ting stars, Shar­jeel Khan, who is now con­sid­ered an in­te­gral part of the coun­try’s ODI and T20I teams.

In a sense, the suc­cess of Is­lam­abad United rep­re­sented the quin­tes­sen­tial in­no­va­tive spirit of Pak­istan cricket which has helped it sur­vive through the tough­est of crises. Ob­vi­ously, hav­ing match win­ners in the shape of Saeed Aj­mal, Sa­muel Badree and Shane Wat­son was also cru­cial in their suc­cess and in this year’s tour­na­ment, the ad­di­tion of Eng­land’s Steven Finn is also ex­pected to be an im­por­tant fac­tor.

If Is­lam­abad United had to climb a moun­tain to reach the pin­na­cle in the first edi­tion of the PSL, they will find it even harder in view of the starspan­gled line-ups of the other teams.

The La­hore Qa­lan­dars squad are be­ing cap­tained by the hard-hit­ting no-non­sense Bren­don McCul­lum who prob­a­bly con­sid­ers the UAE as his happy-hunt­ing ground as it was in Shar­jah where he struck a dou­ble­hun­dred at a T20-es­que pace against Pak­istan in 2014.

The Qa­lan­dars’ bat­ting strength will be fur­ther re­in­forced by the free-scor­ing Jason Roy and the vastly tal­ented Umar Ak­mal and Pak­istan ODI cap­tain Azhar Ali. The bowl­ing depart­ment will rely on the spin magic of Su­nil Narine and Yasir Shah and a va­ri­ety of all-round tal­ent in the shape of So­hail Tan­vir and Bi­lawal Bhatti.

The Karachi Kings have the ser­vices of the na­tional head coach Mickey Arthur who will know the strengths and weak­nesses of such as Mo­ham­mad Amir, Imad Wasim and the new dar­ling of Pak­istan cricket, Babar Azam.

Of course, the pres­ence of the ev­er­pop­u­lar and one-man run-ma­chine Chris Gayle in the bat­ting line-up and the cap­taincy of one of Sri Lanka’s great­est crick­eters, Ku­mar San­gakkara will also not hurt Karachi’s chances of mak­ing it to the top ei­ther. Add to the mix Ravi Bopara and Karachi could be con­sid­ered amongst the favourites.

In Pe­shawar Zalmi, the PSL have prob­a­bly the most hyped and talked about squad. Pow­ered by the busi­ness acu­men of their owner Javed Afridi who has done his ut­most to build the fran­chise into a house­hold brand, Zalmi have some big names to back them­selves up on the field of play as well.

A PSL mar­ket­ing man’s dream, the mere pres­ence of Shahid Afridi in the Zalmi team is enough to fill seats in the Dubai and Shar­jah sta­di­ums. But if his pow­er­ful hit­ting, which may have lost its lus­tre in re­cent times is not enough, then his abil­ity to bowl spin will be a big plus for Zalmi.

Yet an­other English­man, Chris Jor­dan, will be wear­ing the colours of Zalmi in this PSL and could re­mind the au­di­ences why he is con­sid­ered a top T20 player.

Dar­ren Sammy’s lead­er­ship, which has steered his coun­try to in­ter­na­tional ti­tles, will be tested to the max but if his past record as a leader and a player is any in­di­ca­tor, it will tough for the other fran­chises to di­vert him from his mis­sion to win the tro­phy for the Zalmis.

Eoin Mor­gan is an­other star turn for Zalmi who the UAE crowds will be look­ing for­ward to watch­ing. Widely tipped as Pak­istan’s next ODI cap­tain and the cur­rent T20I leader, Sar­fraz Ahmed has the tenac­ity to fight it out in tough con­di­tions. This is ex­actly the kind of lead­er­ship which his team, Quetta Gla­di­a­tors, will be look­ing for to shep­herd a team which has the fire­power of Kevin Pi­etersen and Ahmed She­hzad.

If the bats­men can blast a hole in the op­po­si­tion’s de­fences, then the heavy guns in the shape of the yorker-ex­pert Umar Gul and fast-im­prov­ing Eng­land quick Ty­mal Mills will be ex­pected to fin­ish off the games for the Gla­di­a­tors.

The Great­est Show on Earth it may not be, but for the cricket-mad na­tion of Pak­istan, the PSL 2017 is a mat­ter of joy and hon­our.

The tour­na­ment is the talk of the town in ev­ery city in Pak­istan and there is an air of ex­pectancy in the UAE as well. Al­ready friends are mak­ing plans to get to­gether to watch games and cheer their favourites on and if the spirit of the au­di­ence dur­ing the open­ing ceremony is any in­di­ca­tor, the tour­na­ment will prob­a­bly sur­pass the pop­u­lar­ity of the in­au­gu­ral edi­tion.

The fi­nal of the PSL is slated to be in La­hore and it is quite pos­si­ble that some for­eign play­ers may make the trip to Pak­istan to take part on be­half of the fi­nal­ists, which would be a huge achieve­ment for the PCB and a huge boost for cricket-mad Pak­ista­nis.

Re­gard­less of how and where this tour­na­ment ends, the world of cricket is brac­ing it­self for weeks of high qual­ity games with the tough­est of the tough emerg­ing as the win­ners.

For Pak­istan, all eyes will be on the younger tal­ent on dis­play and the tour­na­ment would be surely con­sid­ered a suc­cess if more tal­ent of the va­ri­ety of Shar­jeel Khan, Mo­ham­mad As­ghar or Mo­ham­mad Nawaz can be un­earthed in this year’s tour­na­ment.

Re­gard­less of how and where this tour­na­ment ends, cricket is brac­ing it­self for weeks of high qual­ity games with the tough­est of the tough emerg­ing as win­ners

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Star at­trac­tion: Kevin Pi­etersen will fea­ture in this year’s PSL but not the IPL

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.