In the lead up to the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League, the tournament was billed as a nationwide audition for the World T20 this year. Given the global lockdowns, and postponements of global events – including the Tokyo Olympics – there is a good change that the World T20 might be postponed as well.
Either way, those local players that did well in the PSL have in any case improved their position in the pecking order of the T20 side – and, in some cases, even the ODI side.
Among the locals, Shadab Khan is arguably the one who has enhanced his billing as a T20 player. His batting has absolutely come of age, and he will definitely be an asset with both ball and bat in the limited-overs for Pakistan in the coming years.
National T20 skipper Babar Azam was among the standouts being the league’s top scorer with 345 runs. Shoaib Malik too performed consistently for Peshawar Zalmi to reaffirm his position in the national setup. Mohammed Hasnain and Shaheen Afridi were the top two wicket-takers, with the latter already showing leadership qualities at such a young age.
Other than these five, the performances from national team regulars were largely a mixed bag. Recently dropped Wahab Riaz and Mohammed Amir would believe they did enough to merit a comeback – Wahab was the third highest wicket-taker and Amir was typically economical along with delivering a couple of memorable spells. Imad Wasim also showed his ability with both bat and call on occasions and did well as the captain of Karachi Kings.
The competition amongst the wicket-keepers was the biggest talking point in the lead up to the PSL
The battle for the opening slots is interesting, with Fakhar Zaman and Sharjeel Khan, both boiling hot and cold over the tournament, while both similarly playing memorable knocks as well. Ironically, perhaps the most consistent local top-order batsman, who played knocks that made tangible difference, was Shan Masood, who hasn’t been in the T20 contention. The Sultans skipper led his team exceptionally as well, but perhaps might remain limited to the Test format.
Among the youngsters, Haider Ali has been the greatest find. It was obvious from the Under 19 World Cup that he would play for Pakistan soon, but his performances in the PSL might have significantly fast-tracked that. Azam Khan showed glimpses that could make him the lower-order power hitter that Pakistan desperately need, but he definitely needs to work on his fitness. Khushdil Shah is not in the same age group, but he too is a strong contender for the lower middle-order.
The competition among the wicket-keepers was the biggest talking point in the lead up to the PSL. And we still aren’t any closer to finding a definitive answer. At times, both Kamran Akmal and Sarfaraz Ahmed looked likely for a comeback, especially in the first half of the tournament. Multan Sultans’ Zeeshan Ashraf has put forth his name in the hat as well.
But it was a PSL to forget for the current wicket-keeper across all three formats, Mohammed Rizwan, who should now be limited to Tests, and perhaps ODIs. This PSL was a struggle for Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali as well, which might have opened up the lower middle-order for many aspirants. Hasan Ali didn’t quite have a strong PSL, while Harris Rauf was marred with injury and didn’t quite perform when he player either.
All these scenarios will pose intriguing questions for Misbah-ul-Haq once international cricket resumes. Given the overall impact of the lockdowns, and the likelihood that the World T20 might be shifted to next year, Misbah would be happy that he might have PSL 6 to look forward to before making the biggest calls in the shortest format.