The top three wicket-takers and two top-scorers so far in PSL belong to Multan
The first round of Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) group matches has nearly come to a close. In the games played in Multan and Karachi, Quetta Gladiators and Karachi Kings have struggled big time to leave their mark.
Kings have played five games, of them, they lost four and registered a win against the arch-rivals Lahore Qalandars. The lone warrior in the Kings’ outfit has been their captain Imad Wasim.
Meanwhile, Gladiators have been in a sorry state of affairs. Once the most consistent side in the competition, now seems to be all over the place. They have a deep batting line with Jason Roy, Martin Guptill, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal and Sarfaraz Ahmed in the ranks, but none of them is firing.
On the other hand, they have Pakistan’s two best young pacers in Nasim Shah and Mohammad Hasnain, but still, they could not inspire their side to much success. Gladiators played four games, losing three and winning just one contest against Karachi Kings.
On the other hand, Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi have shown glimpses of brilliance in their matches. For the defending champions, their bowling department is once again outstanding in the likes of in-form captain Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Afghanistan spin wizard Rashid Khan.
Their batting has not been in the best of shapes, which has hindered their progress so far. The reigning champions won two games and lost one of the three they played so far.
Babar Azam’s Zalmi also have been inconsistent. Mohammad Haris and Saim Ayub have been immensely pleasing at the top of the order, while the captain is yet to attain the consistency he is known for.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore has also been remarkable but their major concern has been their bowling department. Apart from Wahab Riaz, none of their fast bowlers are able to find their grove, while the spinners too have been under par. They played four, winning two and losing two as well.
Meanwhile, the two-time PSL champions are struggling in their bowling department but have been special with the bat. They have a deep and explosive batting line courtesy of Colin Munro, Paul Stirling, Azam Khan, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Moreover, England’s Alex Hales is yet to join the squad. The Shadab-led side played three contests, won two and lost one.
Overall, so far in the tournament, one side that has looked formidable is Multan Sultans. They do not have many stars in the side, but they have a set playing XI, complementing each other pretty well.
Let’s have in-depth look at Sultans and what makes them so special.
Captain Mohammad Rizwan former captain Shan Masood open the innings for the PSL 2021 champions. They provide a solid platform for the explosive batting line of their team.
The wicketkeeper-batter, Rizwan, is in sublime form, scoring at an average of 109.66 (before their game against Karachi Kings) at a strike rate of 144.29. The 30-year-old has scored 329 runs far in the tournament, having a 111-run lead against the second-highest getter of the tournament, his teammate Riley Rossouw, who has scored 218 runs.
The right-handed batter scored his first PSL century this season, against Karachi Kings, on merely 60 deliveries on a difficult batting pitch.
On the other hand, the left-handed batter has not been in the best of forms, but now he is looking to get his shape back. The Kuwait-born batter has scored 112 runs with the help of a half-century.
When Rizwan or Masood is dismissed, South Africa’s Rossouw replaces them and he too has been in superb form and score with a strike-rate of 168.99.
Then there is Rossouw’s Protean teammate David Miller, who is known for his flamboyance all around the world. The left-handed batter did not get much of a chance to put his power-hitting skills on exhibition as he could only face 59 deliveries so far in the tournament.
Still, he has scored 100 runs at an average of 50 at a strike rate of 169.49, once again showing what he can do whenever he will get the chance.
After the South African duo, the giant from Caribbean Kieron Pollard comes out to bat. Similar to Miller, he too has not faced many deliveries during the campaign as the top three batters leave very little for the batters down the order.
The most experienced T20 player in the world has faced 41 deliveries, on which he has scored 69 runs at a strike rate of 168.29.
Apart from these three, there is Khushdil Shah in the lineup, who is often regarded as the most powerful hitter in the middle and death overs in Pakistan.
Then comes Carlos Brathwaite of West Indies, who came into prominence after hitting Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes to win his team the second World T20 title.
Even if the openers, Rizwan and Masood fail to score quickly in the powerplay, Sultans will face little difficulty in improving the strike rate in the middle overs, given the unmatched power they have in the middle-order.
Multan Sultans suffered a mighty blow when their premium fast bowler, ever-smiling Shahnawaz Dahani, was ruled out of the tournament due to a fracture early in the tournament. The experts had decreed Sultans’ bowling line as weak and inexperienced. Many had written off the team due to their bowling woes. However, amid these speculations and gloominess, a youngster stepped up and led the way.
The 20-year-old fast-bowler, Ihsanullah, sent a strong message to the world against Quetta Gladiators by taking five wickets for merely 12 runs. He was fast, aggressive and accurate.
The young pacer has so far taken 12 wickets in just five matches at an economy rate of 5.54. In the game against Karachi Kings, where the Imad Wasim-led side went on to score 193 runs while chasing a target of 196, all of the Sultans’ bowlers went for runs apart from Ihsanullah, leaking just 17 runs in his quota of four overs.
He was the major difference in that game, which handed Rizwan a precious win against his former franchise. Another trump card for Multan Sultans have been their leg-spinner, Usama Mir
The lanky leggie, who recently made his debut for Pakistan, has been instrumental for his team, bowling economical spells and taking crucial wickets.
The Sialkot-born bowler is currently the third-highest wicket-taker in the event with nine wickets at an economy rate of 6.70 only.
Another youngster that has been delivering for Rizwan is Abbas Afridi. The right-arm fast bowler has proved to be expensive but has supported his teammates, Ihsanullah and Mir with his wicket-taking ability.
Being at the second position on the wicket-takers chart, he has dismissed 10 batters in four games, leaking runs at a higher economy rate of 9.90.
Ample bowling options
Ihsanullah, Abbas and Mir have been Rizwan’s first-choice bowlers. Moreover, Rizwan has more weapons in his bowling arsenal that can be used at any stage of the game.
Pollard is a clever customer with the ball in hand. He can stop the flow of runs by bowling his accurate and teasing slower ones. He also has a knack for taking important wickets when he comes on to bowl.
Pollard’s Windies teammate Brathwaite is also handy when he rolls his arm. He can also bowl medium pacers and fool the batters with his subtle change of pace. If needed, they can come in and bowl a crucial over or two.
Meanwhile, Khushdil, who is famous for his power-hitting, is also a useful campaigner with the ball. Rizwan has used his bowling skills cleverly in the previous editions and he can do it this season as well.
In fact, against Karachi Kings, he bowled a superb spell in the context of the game, conceding just 25 runs and taking a crucial wicket in his quota of four overs.
In a nutshell, Multan Sultans look like a bunch of players that have been playing their respective parts to perfection and playing their role in the team’s success.
But cricket remains a funny sport. And things can change with the change of conditions or venue, something Sultans will have to go through in the upcoming week.