The roller coaster ride of the Pakistan Super League is finally over but it’s safe to say all naysayers have been proven wrong with its unexpected success.
Over the past few weeks, the country’s cricket-obsessed population had been glued to their TVs, while even the country’s cricketing gurus learnt a thing or two about the potential of Pakistan cricket and the road map ahead. Here we will have a look at five things we learnt from the inaugural edition of the Pakistan’s first ever T20 league.
1. Umar Akmal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon
Akmal clearly set himself apart from the others in the tournament. The Lahore-born middle-order batsman was the highest scorer of the tournament with 335 runs at an impressive average of 83.75, despite only playing seven innings in the tournament.
He produced some sublime performances with the bat, and almost single-handedly took his team into the next round of the tournament. In conclusion, Akmal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and the Pakistan team management will certainly be looking for some inspiring performances from him in the upcoming Asia Cup and World T20.
2. Azhar is not captaincy material. Sarfraz is
The results under his captaincy, with Pakistan losing three of four series (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand), have certainly not helped his cause.
After the World Cup, there were some who were in favour of wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed’s appointment as captain but the voices faded up until now.
Nearly nine months down the line, Sarfraz’s case is as strong as it ever was. The 28-year-old managed to lead the clear underdogs of the tournament (Quetta Gladiators) to the final of the inaugural PSL tournament.
The Karachi-born player made a clear case for himself as a leader by showing courage, innovation and grit at crucial moments in the tournament.
On the other hand, Azhar’s appointment as the leader of Lahore Qalandars back-fired completely, as they were the only team to miss out on the spot in the playoff.
The 31-year-old once again disappointed on the individual level, lacking innovation in the batting department — a key area to success in the limited overs game.
On the captaincy level, Azhar made the unforgivable blunder of giving the last over to a left-arm spinner with a wet ball despite having the option of medium-pacer Cameron Delport. The decision cost Lahore a place in the play-off. With results not going Azhar’s way in the past few months, it surely looks like Sarfraz is inching closer to becoming team captain.
3. Pakistan still on the hunt for batsmen, not spinners
The good news? We found plenty of potential stars in the tournament, including the likes of Peshawar Zalmi’s Mohammad Asghar, Quetta Gladiators Mohammad Nawaz and Islamabad United’s Imran Khalid. The bad news? They were all bowlers, primarily left-arm spinners.
Taking a closer look at the batsmen in the tournament you will find that most have already played for Pakistan at the top level, such as the likes of Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Hafeez.
The only exception was Quetta Gladiators Mohammad Nawaz who managed to infiltrate the top 30 run-getter list in the tournament. Even then he was largely praised for his bowling efforts.
Batting remains Pakistan’s weakest department and there is no dount that fans and selectors were left disappointed with the results. Even Pakistan T20I captain Shahid Afridi was ‘surprised’ to see the dearth of batsmen in the tournament. For now, we can only hope PSL’s next edition addresses this key issue.
4. Age is just a number
But that all went out of the window with Islamabad United — the oldest team in the tournament with an average age of 33 in the final eleven — dominating the league in the later stages and winning the final.
Fun fact: Islamabad United was also the fifth oldest team by age that took the field, all over the world in any league.
Misbah’s men showed that there is no alternative to experience, and even the older players can cement their spots in the shortest format of the game.
Some prime examples: Australia’s duo Brad Haddin and Brad Hodge, Pakistan’s Misbahul Haq and Shahid Afridi, Englan’s Kevin Peterson and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakara.
5. PSL is here to stay
However, PSL undoubtedly proved to be a big success, despite being held at a neutral venue, and despite having the leading stars of the game. The tournament attracted big crowds in various games. Sharjah in particular saw sold out crowds, while Dubai also saw two sold out crowds during the first play-off between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators, and then in the final match between Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United.
According to Ramiz Raja, the second match between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars had more viewership than the India-Pakistan clash in the ICC World Cup 2015. PSL was also heavily watched in Pakistan with 55% of the country’s TV-watching public tuning into the tournament at peak times.
The game was played in tremendous spirit throughout the tournament. More importantly, there was no scandal in any of the organisational areas of the tournaments which shows that the authorities worked hard to maintain the credibility of the league.
The article originally appeared on The Express Tribune.