Five things we learnt from PSL

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  

PHOTO COURTESY: PSL FACEBOOK

Before the tournament, some were asking whether Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should look somewhere else, as Umar Akmal just did not make the best out of chances he was presented over the past six years. The twenty-five-year-old — who is yet to feature in the ODI team after the ICC World Cup 2015 quarter-final defeat against Australia — certainly wanted to quash such speculation.

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

PHOTO COURTESY: PSL FACEBOOK

Ever since Azhar Ali was appointed as the captain of the Pakistan team in the ODI format, there was always a sense that his appointment will remain a talking point.

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

PHOTO COURTESY: PSL FACEBOOK

When the PSL kicked off on February 4, the main focus of the league was to find the future stars of Pakistan cricket.

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

PHOTO: AFP

When T20 cricket arrived on the scene, it was said that this format, which is short and requires a lot of energy, would heavily rely on younger blood for success.

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

PHOTO COURTESY: PSL FACEBOOK

When the tournament started, there were a lot of doubts over the success of the PSL, as the response for the Master Cricket League (MCL), which started on the same venues just four days before the tournament was pretty disappointing.

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.

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