PSL Team Preview: Islamabad United:
The 'burger' nation's last year win came out of nowhere when they pulled off 4 straight wins in a virtual knockout to win the PSL shooting star trophy. Islamabad United had a very rough start last year around, when they started off their campaign with two straight losses and winning the third game by a whisker.
The team is trusted upon Pakistan’s most successful Test Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who not only holds years of domestic and international cricket experience, but also knows how to handle pressure in sudden collapse and provide a proper revival.
Batsmen: Hussain Talat, Khalid Latif, Misbah ul Haq, Sharjeel Khan, Ben Duckett, Asif Ali
Pace Bowlers: Amad Butt, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Sami, Rumman Raees
Spinners: Samuel Badree, Saeed Ajmal
All Rounders: Andre Russell, Imran Khalid, Shane Watson, Dwayne Smith, Zohaib Khan, Shadab Khan
Wicket Keepers: Brad Haddin, Sam Billings
Strengths: Team Unity, Spin Specialists, Experienced Team
Islamabad United's team unity was pivotal in their team's success last year.
Islamabad United’s last year’s success was all based on the teams gelness and unity. As the players and staff got to know each other, the team started to gel together which had a positive impact on the team’s performance; Thus, during the PSL 2 Drafts no major changes were made and 80% of the last year squad was retained in comparison to other teams who made quite a lot of changes which should work in their favour.
The team’s last year losses were because of spinning pitches. As the tournament is being played on a UAE wicket, there was a lot of spin to offer. However, this issue was tackled when Khalid Latif was bought in the upper order with Brad Haddin, and with Misbah ul Haq also there at the middle, the spinners should again be dealt with quite easily.
Islamabad also enjoys the company of some experienced players. The team is being led under the leadership of veteran star Misbah-ul-Haq, who was praised by the players for the motivational speech he gave in the dressing room before going after the mammoth chase of 175 in an intense finale. Brad Haddin was also appreciated by the team members for giving confidence boost to his peers. Andre Russell, whose place might be in doubt due to injuries, is also another T20 player who goes around playing every T20 League that exists. Shane Watson’s IPL experience also comes in handy.
Weakness: Lack of quality spinners
Though Islamabad United were able to win the first PSL, the team still does not have a quality spinner in their squad. On these UAE wickets, it will be the spin bowling that will play a major factor here not pace. This is why Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Asghar had a lot of success last year around.
While the team does have Samuel Badree, who has achieved the No.1 rank of T20 bowler, but he does not spin the ball that much, and also has a habit of throwing a few bad deliveries as well. Imran Khalid and the remodelled Saeed Ajmal also have a smilar issue regarding spinning the ball. Though, United have drafted Zohaib Khan and Shadab Khan, but we will have to wait and see whether they do offer any major turn in their bowling or not.
Key Players: Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif & Misbah-ul-Haq
Sharjeel slammed 117* in the Eliminator vs Peshawar Zalmi last year, and will look to replicate that performance.
Sharjeel Khan was easily the 'find' of last year's PSL. His epic 117 against the Zalmi’s will probably still be fresh in mind of all the opponents. His way of doing a blitzkrieg against the pacers will make him a target of every opposition, and it will be interesting to see how he deals with that pressure. He has also improved against the spinners from last year around; plus his ability to play bouncers is also something to look out for. The hard hitting opening batsman has also been in good form in the Australia series and will be looking to continue that form in the PSL too.
Again keeping in mind the spin tracks of UAE, Khalid Latif would be expected to place another good show this year around. It is to be noted that Khalid Latif comes from Karachi, where most of the wickets are similar to the UAE spin wickets and the spinners there enjoy the success. Khalid Latif would be expected to feast on the spinners along with Misbah-ul-Haq who has made a name for himself in slogging spinners out of the park.
Player to watch out for: Imran Khalid
Imran Khalid's immaculate lengths make him hard to get away.
Although, Imran Khalid is a not a major spinner of the ball, but he does know how to bowl at the right line and length; this alone makes it really hard to attack against him and allow him to be a very economical 5th bowler.
Much of Faisalabad Wolves’ T20 success was because of Imran Khalid as after Hafeez’s move to Lahore Lions, Imran was the one who has played the role of the fifth bowler. His accurate bowling ends up forcing players to throw their wickets against him.
Even in last year’s PSL, it was Imran Khalid who thrice gave a standout bowling performance amongst all the bowlers.
Shadab Khan and Ben Duckett are two other players to be on the lookout for. Duckett’s hard hitting is what made England call him up to their international side. His List A double hundred for the England Lions will be in the back of the mind of everyone. He also had consistent performances for Northamptonshire in the Natwest iT20 competition. However, he struggled against the spinners on turning tracks in the test series vs India, so it'll be interesting to see if he can replicate that form in the PSL.
Shadab Khan has had some stellar performances with both bat and ball at both U-19 level & for Pakistan A
Shadab Khan has been a recent find from the Pakistan U-19 level. He has also had great success for Pakistan A. He made his first class debut for Pakistan A vs Sri Lanka A in England, and found immediate success, as he scored 48 in Pakistan's first innings, and followed that up with 4/89 in Pakistan's second innings. He continued to succeed in first class cricket, as he scored a maiden 100 and took 9 wickets in the match against Zimbabwe A. Shadab also showed glimpses of his talent on his List A debut, when he took the Islamabad side to a tight win over KPK in the Pentangular Cup, with a steely 33* off 29 deliveries. Shadab seems like a star in the making, and will do no harm to his selection chances if he is able to perform at the PSL.
Allrounder Amad Butt is another youngster to keep an eye on.
Another player to watch out for would be Amad Butt . The allrounder missed last year's tournament because of an injury, but should play this year as an 'emerging' player. Amad can generate some high pace and should be a good third pacer for the United, although he can be expensive at times. He has also shown the ability to bat with a cool head under pressure; it was him & Zafar Gohar who took Pakistan U-19 to the finish line in the U-19 World Cup semifinal in 2014. He was selected for the single T20 match vs England, but was dropped from the squad without a game, as the team management thought he was not ready for international cricket just yet, and he will be looking to prove that notion wrong.
Quetta and Islamabad’s success from last year around was due to the team’s unity. Both teams showed how well their players were gelled. However, all other teams have made a mistake of making too many changes in their squad, while United has tried to retain most of its last year players. This factor alone will go in Islamabad’s favour. It is expected under the leadership of its veteran Captain; the team will be able to enjoy similar success as last year.
The team carries around with themselves a variety of all-rounders, which allows them to be multi dimensional with their bowling attack.
Islamabad United literally plays the game as their name suggests:
UNITED WE WIN, UNITED WE CELEBRATE!