Make or break: For these players, PSL 2017 is more than just a game

While the PSL is fun and entertainment for most of us, for a few players it’s consequential

By
Ebad Ahmed
Make or break: For these players, PSL 2017 is more than just a game

Pakistan Super League Season 2 is just around the corner. And the hype is real. The national anticipation for this event is building up, and why should it not? The modern glamour-cricket formula is, as they say, ‘Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment’ but it’s the Pakistani infusion which makes it nothing less than magic.

But, where the PSL is fun and entertainment for most of us, for a few players it’s consequential. It’s a way to reclaim a spot in the national squad; it’s the chance to silence their critics; it’s an opportunity to prove their mettle; it’s their pride which is on stake.

Let’s have a look at them:

Ahmad Shehzad

Shehzad, axed from the national team on disciplinary grounds, last played his international match in T20 World Cup in March 2016 under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi. The right-handed batsman, who still enjoys a central contract with Pakistan Cricket Board, is eager to make a comeback. His 104 not out in Quaid-e-Azam trophy final, in which he captained the winning side, has made his case strong. But it still requires a grand performance from him in the PSL which will pave his way for the national squad.

The batsman, who apparently copies Virat Kohli’s looks as mentioned in an interview with Geo Super, said that his lacklustre performances in the international matches was due to lack of support from the team management; however, he is quite satisfied with the Quetta Gladiators team staffers.

Now the onus is on him, can he walk the talk or will he just remain an eye-candy for teenagers? PSL-2 will tell.

Umar Gul

Gul once spearheaded the Pakistani pace attack. His specialization in yorkers shot him to fame. But due to an ankle injury, the right-arm Peshawar-based pacer was forced to take leave from his career. Though Gul returned to the national squad for three matches against England in ODI, he managed to take only three wickets and his inclusion in the squad is still under question.

Is it time for the 32-year-old to throw in the towel?  It all depends on his performance in the PSL.

Anwar Ali

Anwar Ali is always remembered by cricket enthusiasts for his devastating spell against India in Under-19 cricket World Cup, where his in-swingers sent the rival batsmen, including Rohit Sharma, back to pavilion. A few years later, Ali emerged on the international cricket scope, sans his in-swingers. He managed to take only 28 wickets in 22 ODIs and 16 T20s.

Ali is desperately seeking for a stellar performance in the PSL to avoid fading away after a brief stint of international cricket. He had a five-wicket haul recently against Islamabad. He has to repeat it, at least once, to get back on the selectors’ radar.

Saeed Ajmal 

Our very own spin magician, who changed the dynamics of Pakistani bowling attack by taking charge from pacers – Ajmal, once a part of Pakistani squad in all three-forms of cricket, lost his place after a change in his bowling action was required by ICC.

In his words, “before the change of action, batsmen used to fear me but now it’s a contest.”

Though Ajmal has started nipping wickets with an impressive average of 12 runs, to get into the team remains an uphill task. It appears that PSL-2 is the last chance for the Faisalabad-born.

Bilawal Bhatti

Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali were introduced in the international circuit as modern-day all-rounders, but both were dropped a few months later on grounds of inconsistent performance. Bilawal last played his international T20 against Zimbabwe in Lahore. Something big, something better would ensure his place back in Pakistan XI.

Sohaib Maqsood

Huge expectations are attached with Sohaib Maqsood. Hailing from Multan, Maqsood is the fifth Pakistani batsman to score fifties in his first two ODI innings. He made his international debut in 2013, but a spate of injuries obstructed his place in the national team. In the previous season of PSL, Maqsood scored 79 runs with a strike rate of 111 in two matches. Experts predict that given Maqsood’s domestic form, he is slated for an impressive innings this season.

Haris Sohail

The left-handed batsman will be playing his first big-stake tournament after recovering from a long knee injury. Haris, a promising young star who played 22 ODIs and four T20 internationals with an average of 43 and 15, respectively, will be a special focus of selectors.

Shahzaib Hasan

Shahzaib was in the winning Pakistani squad of 2009 World Cup. He was written-off by the selection committee later due to his uninspiring performance later and better alternative available openers. However, recently his 171 runs against Islamabad made waves. A tough competition is expected between the veteran Karachiite and Ahmad Shehzad for the opening slot in the national team.

Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Lateef both made a comeback in the national team on the basis of their performances in PSL-1.  Now who next? Who will impress the selectors and fans enough to regain their position in the squad? Fingers crossed. The clock is ticking, we will know the answer soon.