As I write these lines, the Sharjah chapter of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has concluded and the event shifts back to Dubai tomorrow for the final round of matches. For all the event’s nascence which has been evident at times, it has still been a success story for Pakistan cricket. It all started off with a spectacular opening ceremony in Dubai that brought together some of Pakistan’s biggest celebrities as well as a vast expatriate audience at the Dubai Sports City.
The main event kicked off the next day with a seemingly one-sided game in which Quetta Gladiators brushed Islamabad United aside with ease. That game set the tone for the Gladiators’ campaign which has seen them emerge as arguably the best of the lot. The Quetta-based side have exhibited efficiency in their game which has been missing elsewhere, although the one-dimensional nature of their victories is worrisome. In all games they’ve won, Gladiators restricted the opposition to modest totals and chased them down with ease.
Quetta have lost only two games in the opening season of the prestigious domestic league thus far. Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Nawaz have shone with bat and ball respectively while Luke Wright and Grant Elliot have also produced impressive performances. Kevin Pietersen’s failure to fire on all cylinders has been a slight disappointment, though.
The team that seems to have challenged the Gladiators most strongly is the high-flying Peshawar Zalmi, who displaced them from the top spot in the standings after defeating them last night. Shahid Afridi led side boasts a highly talented squad who have done justice to their talents. Although “Lala” failed to impress with the bat but has used his resources masterfully and stepped up the ante himself when the situation demanded so.
Zalmi skipper almost single-handedly ripped through the lineup of Quetta Gladiators to leave them stranded at 66/9 and virtually throw them out of the game. Tamim Iqbal and Wahab Riaz have also been revelations of their side while Mohammad Hafeez has also been solid at the top of the order.
Islamabad, as well as the traditional cricketing powerhouses of Karachi and Lahore, have not been able to reach the levels their fans must have desired. All three teams have relied more on individual performances rather than grinding results out in their favor as a team. Islamabad have had their top order to thank for their victories while Andre Russell has been their most successful bowler.
Karachi Kings remained unlucky to lose games by very narrow margins on a couple of occasions; they have no one to blame but their batsmen who have consistently let them down. Only Ravi Bopara, the standout performer of the event, top of the run-scorers’ charts and second on the wicket-takers’ list, has shone consistently for them. His 71* & 6/16 in the victory over Lahore is one of the best all-round performances ever seen in T20 cricket. The other positive for Karachi has been Mohammad Amir’s consistent bowling performances up front, which has also seen him take the first hat-trick of the PSL.
Lahore Qalandars, the bottom dwellers of the standings table started off their campaign quite miserably, but some good performances by Umar Akmal and Cameron Delport have earned them some respite in the event. Big money star Chris Gayle has failed to get going, thus completing the trio of the league’s biggest superstars (Pietersen, Afridi and Gayle himself) who have all failed to set the Emirates ablaze with their bats. The only thing in the Qalandars’ favor is that they have got two games remaining to knock Karachi out of the tournament, while the Kings, already facing a tough test in their last game against the Zalmi, are hoping that the Lahorites fail to win either of their final two games.
Despite the sometimes ordinary level of cricket in PSL and a thin crowd attendance (they improved when the event shifted to Sharjah), the tournament is proving to be a resounding success. An increase in the number of international players participating is called for, especially those from India and South Africa, and if and when the league does make its way home to Pakistan, the fans’ feast would be complete.