Déjà vu

The fifth edition of PSL has a familiar feel to it. K Shahid reports from Lahore and Multan

Déjà vu
Hosting its first game after 12 years, Multan Cricket Stadium is jam-packed on Wednesday, as the Sultans host Peshawar Zalmi. The numbers in the stadium smack in the middle of the week showcase how the locals have missed the cricket here, and one expects similar crowds going forward in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore as well.

While hosting the entirety of the PSL 2020 in Pakistan is a notable – and much anticipated – new for the league, after the culmination of the first leg the points table actually had a pretty familiar feel to it. The two-time champions Islamabad United topped the standings, followed by Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi – the three most successful sides in PSL history, and the three to have won the four previous titles between them.

Shane Watson and Luke Ronchi

Similarly, true to tradition, Lahore Qalandars hog the bottom place being the sole winless side in the tournament. Karachi Kings, arguably the second least successful PSL side given that the Sultans only joined two seasons ago, similarly were placed second from bottom, with Multan fourth – which could change after the Zalmi game, with the hosts looking poised for the win at press time on Wednesday.

Similarly, Thursday’s match between United and Gladiators in Rawalpindi, could change things up a bit by the time you read this on Friday. However, the start to PSL 5, so far, hasn’t boded well for the chasing pack looking to shake up the status quo.

As things stand in the Wednesday game, with Multan Sultans chasing a mere 124 to bag their second win, which would take them to at least second on the table – top if they hunt it down at a canter – they look the likeliest among the chasing pack to challenge the Big Three of PSL.
One can’t help but fear the worst for Lahore Qalandars

Karachi Kings, of course, have only played just the two games and do have the most glittering squad in the league. For Lahore Qalandars, however, one can’t help but fear the worst.

Last week we discussed how the Qalandars have a more balanced squad this year round and how they are not relying on a marquee signing. But their loss against Islamabad United – one of the greatest matches not just in PSL history, but all of T20 – underlines what Lahore completely lack: any winning experience which could help inculcate a triumphant mentality.

Most of the blunt for that has to be borne by the coach Aaqib Javed, given that Lahore Qalandars appear to be curtailed by the same issues that they have been over the five seasons. They fire in the power play and then are absolutely shambolic in the middle overs. While Mohammed Hafeez looks to have shorn that particular facet – as exhibited in the United match – but the Qalandars let the game sneak out of their grasp in the field, when they needed leaders to step up and seal a contest that they had in the bag.

Azam Khan with Moin Khan

Qalandars have the mother of all must-wins today (Friday) in Rawalpindi against Peshawar Zalmi, who themselves might be needing a victory. Before that, Multan Sultans host the Karachi Kings in Friday’s day game. Following the Multan-Rawalpindi leg, the league table will start taking shape, where we could being to discuss potential final standings.

What is heartening to see in this edition of the PSL is the fact that the emerging players category has seen the rise of impressive young batsmen. Azam Khan for the Gladiators, and Under 19 star Haider Ali for Zalmi, have already displayed their skills – the latter looks set for a bright multiple-format future, while the former is a power hitter that Pakistan national side have needed in the middle-order for a while.

We’re in Multan and Rawalpindi over the weekend, with Lahore replacing the former in the next leg. The matches will come thick and fast now, as the teams vie for the coveted playoff places.