The bigger picture of the PSL: Part Two
For part one of this article, click here.
"Shake a tree in Pakistan, and talented fast bowlers fall like leaves", it was once said. Pakistanis pride themselves on their heritage of producing quality pacers. From Wasim to Waqar to Akhtar to Asif; it was almost as there was a factory of fast bowlers in the country. Sadly, the fast bowling 'tree' in Pakistan now seems to be barren. The new crop of fast bowlers have nowhere near the same skillset as the fast bowling greats of the past. So badly have Pakistan's bowling stocks fallen, that they recently conceded 444 to England; the highest ODI total recorded.
From the pacers, Hasan Ali was the find of the PSL last year
It is not all doom and gloom however. Last year's Pakistan Super League threw up Hasan Ali , who ended up as Pakistan's leading wicket taker in the ODI series against England and Australia. What makes Hasan so successful is that he is a smart, thinking bowler with many variations, and he will play a key role in Zalmi's campaign this year as well.
One can only hope that this year's PSL will also help unearth some bowlers who can restore the quality of Pakistan's pace attack. There are a number of young upcoming bowlers picked by the different franchises, who could perhaps fill in that role.
Among them is Lahore Qalandars' Ghulam Mudassar . Ghulam impressed the Qalandars' coach Aaqib Javed at the Qalandars talent hunt, and was snapped up as an emerging player. The Karachi based left armer can generate high pace, but can often be expensive. It is hoped that with some fine tuning, he could be the express pacer Pakistan are looking for. Another prospect who was picked up by the Qalandars management is Muhammad Irfan ; however since he is in the supplementary category, he may not get the chance to feature in this year's tournament.
Ghulam Mudassar was picked up by Lahore Qalandars after impressing Aaqib Javed during trials
Karachi Kings picked up a left armer as their emerging player too, in the form of Abdul Ameer . He has picked up 30 wickets in 25 T20's at an average of 24.16, and it should be interesting to see how he fares, whereas Mir Hamza , who was discarded by Karachi, was picked up by Quetta Gladiators instead. The left armer has had great success at the First Class level, and has the ability to swing the ball both ways. He troubled several England batsmen during Pakistan A's tour of England, as well as in the practice match in the UAE before the test series. However, he is yet to translate that success to white ball cricket, and was quite expensive for Karachi last year.
Finally two other players to watch out for could be Rumman Raees and Amad Butt . Raees, who picked up 4 wickets in 8 games last year, could be a potential option in limited overs cricket. Like many modern bowlers, he uses the slower ball to take up wickets. On his T20I debut vs the West Indies, he failed to pick up a wicket but was very economical, conceeding only 10 runs in his three overs. On the other hand, Butt 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.
5. A big hitter / finisher at Number 6
It is pretty much a requisite in modern one day cricket, for teams to have a proper hitter or finisher at Number 6, who can take on the bowling in the last 10 overs. If you look at all the top sides, they have someone at that position who can play that role. Australia have the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, South Africa have David Miller, New Zealand have Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson. India have Kedhar Jadhav and Suresh Raina and England have Jos Buttler. Even the lower ranked teams like West Indies and Afghanistan have players who can play that role, but Pakistan are lacking badly in this regard. Where teams make 100 runs in the last 10 overs, Pakistan struggle to make 50.
Umar Akmal has played at No. 6 for Pakistan regularly, but has disappointed more often than not.
The most recently tried personnel for that spot were Umar Akmal and Mohammad Rizwan . Infact, Akmal has occupied the No. 6 spot for some time now, however, it is fair to say that he has regressed and has disappointed more often than not. Both Umar and Rizwan had a torrid Australia series, and could not accelerate when needed.
So who are the other options that could be tried for this spot ? First, there's Sohaib Maqsood . The right handed batsman had a solid start to his career, when coming in at No. 3, he hit two fifties in his first two games against South Africa. Even though he started at No. 3, his ability to strike the ball big, as well as a lack of other options, meant that Maqsood was eventually demoted down the order. In 3 innings at No. 6, Maqsood averages 39 at 71.77. His record improves batting at No. 7, where he averages 42 at 120. Maqsood may have started brightly, but he could not live up to the hype in the 2015 World Cup. He suffered an injury soon after the World Cup, and following his return to international cricket, he could not make the same impact. However, he recorded his highest first class score of 222* after being dropped. Picked up by Peshawar Zalmi this year, Maqsood will look to regain his form and find a spot back in the national side. Another option is Iftikhar Ahmed . The Peshawar batsman has been prolific in the domestic setup, and hit a hundred in the regional one day cup final recently, but looked mediocre at international level. Nonetheless, he may get another shot at international cricket if he has a good PSL.
Of players who are yet to make their Pakistan debut, there is Noor Wali , the Quetta Gladiators 'emerging' player. He was prolific for Karachi Whites in the U-19 circuit at First Class Level, but has played just 3 List A games at an average of 20 with a strike rate of 102, where he batted in the lower order for Port Qasim Authority. There's also Khushdil Shah , the 21 year old left handed batsman, who hails from Bannu. In 12 List A games, Shah has already hit two hundreds and three fifties. He averages 41, at a strike rate of 91, and looks like an exciting prospect for sure. There's also Asif Ali , who showed his prowess last year, with an unbeaten 31 off 17 to take Islamabad to victory over Karachi last year. While he has the ability to strike them big, consistency is definitely an issue.
Ofcourse, Pakistan could also go left-field, and try someone like Shahzaib Hasan , Khalid Latif or Khurram Manzoor at the No. 6 spot. There are a number of allrounders who have already been tried in the lower order for Pakistan, such as Aamer Yamin and Anwar Ali . While consistency was a problem for Anwar, Yamin was probably discarded too early, and could be given another shot. The likes of Shadab Khan and Amad Butt are bowling allrounders, but perhaps, with proper coaching could eventually be tried at that No. 6 spot.
6. The return of international cricket to Pakistan
International Cricket returned to Pakistan after a hiatus of 6 years in 2015
March 3, 2009 was a tragic day for Pakistan and its cricket. It was the day gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team enroute to the Gaddafi stadium. Since then, Pakistan has had to play its cricket in the UAE, with Zimbabwe being the only team to tour Pakistan since, in a one-off tour in 2015.
When the PSL was first announced, the Pakistan Cricket Board said it would be a stepping stone for international cricket to return to Pakistan, and, following in the same direction, they have announced that this year's final will be held in Lahore, in what should be baby steps for the return of international cricket to Pakistan.
The bigger picture of the PSL: Part Two.
The bigger picture of the PSL: Part Two.