A Case for Lahore Qalandars
As we enter the last week of the HBL PSL 3 round-robin stage, a glance at the points table offers a mind-bogglingly tight picture. In the words of the late Chairman Mao:
“There is great disorder under Heaven, and the situation is excellent!”.
With no clear front-runners till yesterday, it was almost certain that Lahore Qalandars were out of this tournament. But just when you thought that Multan Sultans would do the needful today, and dump out the hapless Qalandars, the immensely-talented Shaheen Shah Afridi lived up to his potential and produced a bowling spell of surreal proportions.
Shaheen Afridi finished with figures of 3.4 overs – 1 maiden, 4 runs and, wait for it, … 5 wickets!
Out of the 22 balls that he bowled, there were 18 dot balls. Such a bowling effort is barely ever witnessed in ODI games. In T-20 matches, this is undoubtedly some sort of record. The steep bounce that he elicited off the dead Dubai wicket made it seem as if he were bowling somewhere down under and made the ball swing and move both ways. Given that he is only seventeen, comparisons with the great Waseem Akram are not entirely premature. May this performance mark the start of a long and illustrious career for the impressive subaltern. May he stay in good health and never lose his head. Amen.
To catch some priceless moments that happened OFF the field during the Lahore Qalandars Vs Karachi Kings match in Sharjah, read ” PSL: It’s More Than “Just Cricket”
It is mainly because of this reason that when Lahore Qalandars signed on the hottest newcomer from the U-19 circuit for their PSL outfit, many pundits forecasted that, maybe, this year LQ would live up to its potential and would finally give its long-suffering owner and fans something to cheer about. But the initial matches of PSL 3 merely unfolded the same old miserable tale.
A lopsided batting with no real depth, an out-of-form Umar Akmal (has he ever been in form? … anyone?), strange tactics (which weren’t really followed by the disgruntled team anyway), and insistence on including players like Denesh Ramdin, meant that LQ aimed to sustain its losing streak for another six games. The skipper, poor old Brendan McCullum found too much responsibility on his shoulders, and not surprisingly, would crumble all too soon in the almost one-sided games witnessed so far. The Super-Over thriller against Islamabad United was the one exception. But even in that game, LQ should have romped home with a few overs to spare, since they were only chasing 120 odd runs. They did need an ‘out of this world’ performance to reverse their fortunes – in the tall, imposing stature of Shaheen Shah Afridi, they finally delivered one.
The possibility that LQ qualifies for the playoffs in PSL 3, is still only very, very slim. They must win all their remaining games and other teams ought to give them the results that are helpful to their cause. Only then, would we see them rise from the bottom of the table.
Unlikely as it seems, I believe that for the sake of a healthy PSL, it is important that LQ at least makes it to the playoffs. Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan is also its cultural hub, and sports centre. Although the composition of PSL teams is not limited to the geographical regions that the teams represent, there is no doubt that the teams command a huge fan base in their respective cities. A PSL final between Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings would be in the same league of clashes as is England Vs Australia OR the cricket equivalent of El Clasico: Pakistan Vs India. The fact that the final would take place in Karachi, in front of a fully-packed National Stadium (NSK), puts an entirely different, head-spinning-delirious charm to the event.
These qualifying games have been lukewarm to watch. We have not had the innumerably close clashes of PSL 1 and 2. Not yet, anyway. I, however, am confident that as the final list of playoff teams still remains awfully unpredictable, the contesting teams will put in some meaty efforts to secure their slots.
PSL Games in Pakistan will fall in a different class altogether, as opposed to the UAE matches. Yes, some of the foreign players won’t be there, but there won’t be any dearth of action, fanfare, hulla gulla or razzmatazz. Gaddafi and National stadia will be jam-packed, the noise will be deafening, sixes and fours will be raining in, bouncers and yorkers will be sprayed around the ground, and no matter which teams make it to the big games, it will be the green and white Pakistan flag that will fly proudly.
For the sake of Pakistan Cricket, however, I hope and pray that Karachi or Lahore, at least one of them, makes it to the finals.
Dr. Sajid Butt is a consultant-radiologist based in London, U.K.