Whoever wrote the script of the PSL Season 2, has proved that truth is more thrilling than fiction. That the very last game before the Play Offs would (at least mathematically) determine who the fourth team was, and that this was because the last ball of the game between Karachi and Lahore a day earlier led to this situation, made for worthwhile viewing.
The route to reaching the final remains equally interesting. It won’t be known till Friday who is the second finalist. I would have thought that in this day of commercialism, there would have been a match for third place between the two teams who didn’t make it into the final.
Certainly, the way each of the four teams have come back from difficult, at times improbable, situations, at the league stage, and the way their positions in the table have oscillated, shows that there is little difference in the quality of players in each of the four franchises. That makes for an interesting, and anybody’s, final.
Thankfully, the embarrassing incident of the two players booked for spot fixing has not got a high profile. At least not enough to disrupt the interest in the tournament. The media should be thanked for that as well. They could have run some investigative stories but I think they have read into the plot and not given it much space.
Otherwise, there has been much in the tournament, especially in the last few games, that would have pointed toward suspicious activities, not to mention strangely slow batting by batsmen renowned for their strike rates. I wouldn’t be surprised that following the final on Sunday some players might be quietly investigated at Gaddafi Stadium. Worse, some of the players whose names came alongside Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif, have been guilty of some strange moves in the league games.
What has been a talking point so far has been whether PCB let go the opportunity to groom potential captains of Pakistan team. It made sense for Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik to step down from the franchises, but to hand over to Darren Sammy and Kumar Sangakkara, has disappointed some people. Yes, Azhar Ali would have been disastrous but Brendon McCullum in his place robbed other candidates of the opportunity.
The plus point has been that the franchises wanted experience out there and these have been the legends who have lead their teams to the final, if not lifting the trophy itself, of world tournaments. As such the younger players have benefitted from watching up close how their minds work and how they react to different situations.
But it would have been good to let one of the Pakistani players lead for a match or two. Would have been a tough move, especially for the Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars, who like last year struggled to get control of most of their matches. But then this would have made for discovery, would it not, of those young ones who can take the pressure.
After all, it didn’t do Lahore Qalandars any good for Brendon McCullum, to lead them. And Sangakkara had to rely on a miraculous knock by Pollard to get them out of jail in their penultimate league game. In the end they got through by overpowering Islamabad United, thanks to a much awaited and belated blitz by Chris Gayle. Mathematically speaking, Lahore Qalandars were out of it a day earlier once Pollard hit those sixes off the last two balls of the match. Karachi, having a superior run rate, would have qualified even if they had lost in their final game as long they would get within 12 runs of the Islamabad United score of 123
I would have given Umar Akmal a chance to lead in one game with a choice for him to select at what position he bats. It would have shown whether he became more responsible in his batting. Otherwise Mohammad Rizwan and even Yasir Shah could have been given the responsibility for that one game.
Lahore Qalandars gained nothing from appointing Brendon McCullum as their leader back in September. He neither scored nor inspired. And his astonishing decision to bowl himself at a crucial time of the Karachi Kings chase in their final game cost the Qalandars the game. It was his only over of the PSL and with a couple of bowlers who had done reasonably well earlier on and had overs remaining till the end could have done better by law of averages when compared with McCullum.
For the Kings, Imad Wasim was the perfect candidate. There has been talk over the last year that he should be the permanent vice-captain to Sarfraz Ahmed. He’s a thinking cricketer and like Sarfraz has two skills out of the three needed.
In the Peshawar Zalmi, it would have been revealing how Wahab Riaz would have turned his aggressive temperament into leading the team. He was one of the contenders of leading the ODI side after Misbah stepped down; he could still do when Sarfraz is injured or unavailable.
Even in Islamabad United, since Misbah doesn’t play the T20 format at the international level, there should have been a player whom at least Misbah could have deputised to. Ironically, there was Sharjeel Khan till the first game who could have been a contender. Saying that now borders on the ridiculous if he is indeed found guilty of spot fixing.
I wouldn’t even mind if PCB would have encouraged some swapping of players who are future contenders of leadership to judge which ones make the grade. Likewise disappointed with the fact that three of the five coaches are foreigners. Again, Moin Khan has been tried and not trusted as Chief Selector and as Manager and I doubt he is the future coaching choice. Only in the shape of Mohammad Akram of Peshawar Zalmi will PCB gain from his experience. I would have put in potential coaches like Jalaluddin and sub-coaches like Rashid Latif and Aaqib Javed in complete charge.
There has also been the suggestion that PCB should ensure that at least two players in each side should be from the current Under-19 side. Even if they don’t play the exposure they can get working with top international players and being part of team strategy discussions would do them a world of good.
There is already a lot of talk about what has been the benefit to PCB.
Their share of the profits from the first PSL last year was four and a half crore out of a total profit 26 crore. That went to the franchises. Of course there has been no audit of the accounts so who’s to tell if the profits could have been higher and PCB’s share more.
Room for improvement as in most tournaments at the nascent stage. For the moment let’s look ahead to a grand finale on Sunday. •