Imad's rebirth, Shadab's captaincy and Shaheen's decline: Key takeaways from PSL 9

Pakistan cricket selectors would need to take a close look at PSL 9 performers in order to finalise the best players for the 2024 T20 World Cup

Wasay Qayyum

With six teams, four venues, 34 matches, hundreds of players and thousands of supporters, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season nine concluded at the National Bank Stadium, Karachi, on March 18 with Islamabad United winning the title after an absolute nail-biter against Multan Sultans that was decided on the last ball of the game.

Islamabad United celebrates after winning the PSL 9 trophy in the tournaments final match in Karachi. — PCB
Islamabad United celebrates after winning the PSL 9 trophy in the tournament's final match in Karachi. — PCB

The emergence of Saim Ayub, the all-rounder, the batting adventures of Usman Khan, the consistency of Babar Azam, the brilliance of Usama Mir, and the athleticism of Irfan Khan, PSL 9 gave fans much to relish but what stood out the most were three players that pleased some, disappointed others, but surprised no one.

Among the key takeaways from PSL 9, we are going to discuss three factors that can potentially play a massive part for Pakistan as the Green Shirts prepare for the 2024 T20 World Cup, which will be played in the United States and the West Indies from June 1.

Imad Wasim’s rebirth

After being away from the cricketing circuit for a long time, Imad Wasim's name emerged once again in November 2023 but not in the way many fans had expected. 

The all-rounder had announced his retirement from international cricket, just days after the 2023 World Cup had concluded. Considering he was just 34 years old at that time and still in the best shape of his life, the news came as a shock to many as fans had different views on what had just happened.

Days before the commencement of the PSL 9, Imad completed his move to Islamabad United by leaving Karachi Kings, the franchise he had been associated with since the start.

Imad Wasim raises his bat after Islamabad United won the PSL 9. — PCB
Imad Wasim raises his bat after Islamabad United won the PSL 9. — PCB

Having been critical of Babar Azam, especially about his game in the shorter format, the all-rounder was under the scrutiny of his fans, whose expectations were high. 

A poor start to the PSL 9 campaign, where he not only failed with the bat but also with the ball, sicced a brigade of trolls on him, with some even asking the Islamabad management to bench him.

Imad was having an on-and-off campaign until the pressure on Islamabad pushed them to a do-or-die situation. Here, the 35-year-old rose to the occasion and played a match-winning knock of 30* on 13 balls against Multan Sultans in their last group match, which steered United into the eliminators. In the first eliminator against Quetta Gladiators, he had a spell of 3-12, which dented the Rilee Rossouw side's hopes of chasing the target. Meanwhile, in the second eliminator against Peshawar Zalmi, he, once again, played a winning knock, scoring 59* (40) when all hopes were lost.

However, the best was yet to come as Imad bagged a five-wicket haul in the final, becoming the first player to do so in the history of the PSL decider, playing the pivotal role in his side's triumph. 

With the remarkable campaign, it will be interesting to see if Imad will come out of retirement to aid Pakistan in the T20 World Cup as the Green Shirts need their best players to win the elusive title.

Shadab Khan – the captain

With his outstanding leadership skills in the previous editions of PSL, Shadab Khan became a strong contender for the captaincy of the Pakistan cricket team and rightly so. The Mianwali-born also got the chance to prove his abilities in a three-match T20I series against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates back in March 2023. While that team consisted of many debutants, the Shadab-led unit lost the series 2-1 and his own performances in those matches weren’t noteworthy.

Shadab’s captaincy chapter seemed to be over as this was the first time Pakistan had lost a series against Afghanistan and his performance was not enough; however, the 25-year-old surely turned the tide in the PSL 9 with not just his captaincy skills, but also with brilliant all-round performances.

Islamabad United captain Shadab Khan holds the PSL 9 trophy ahead of the final match in Karachi. — PCB
Islamabad United captain Shadab Khan holds the PSL 9 trophy ahead of the final match in Karachi. — PCB

Shadab Khan was named the PSL 9 Player of the Tournament as he scored 305 runs at a massive 142.5 strike rate and was Islamabad’s Man of the Hour when they were in trouble at multiple times. The leg-spinner also took 14 wickets at a 26.8 bowling average and proved why he is considered the best all-rounder of Pakistan. With the 2024 T20 World Cup just two months away, Shadab’s presence would be key to Pakistan as Shaheen Shah Afridi would be in a dire need of constant ideas and guidance to become the first Pakistani captain to lift an ICC trophy since Sarfaraz Ahmed in 2017.

Shaheen Shah Afridi’s decline

After becoming just the first captain to win back-to-back PSL titles in 2022 and 2023, Shaheen Afridi looked like the man to guide Lahore Qalandars to their third title in three years and make them the most successful team in PSL history but the lanky pacer failed to deliver when it mattered the most in season nine.

A miserable campaign in the PSL 9 saw Lahore Qalandars winning only one out of 10 matches they played, which came against the eventual champions Islamabad in a group match. They lost eight matches and one ended without a result due to rain. 

Struggling to take wickets, constant changes in the batting order and the unavailability of their key weapon Rashid Khan, were some of the factors that affected Lahore’s performance this season but the faults in Shaheen’s captaincy as well as his individual performances cannot be ignored.

Even though he took 14 wickets in 9 matches at an economy of 8.61, Shaheen did underperform in the PSL 9. The left-armer’s main weapon has always been his ability to bag wickets with the new ball, something that was not seen throughout the tournament. Not just that, his bowling in the death over has now become a topic of discussion for the fans. In the match against Quetta Gladiators, Shaheen needed to defend 14 runs in the last over but he failed, conceding a six to Wasim Jr on the last ball of the innings.

Shaheen Shah Afridi charging to bowl during the match against Quetta Gladiators. — PCB
Shaheen Shah Afridi charging to bowl during the match against Quetta Gladiators. — PCB

Apart from his bowling, one noticeable thing was the way Shaheen kept on promoting himself in the batting order above well-established batters/hitters like David Wiese, Sikandar Raza and others. Even though he scored a half-century against Quetta, coming to bat above proven batters — something that worked out in the PSL 8 final against Multan Sultans — didn’t do any good to Lahore as they had just the second worst campaign in the history after Karachi Kings in 2021, where the Kings lost a record nine matches.

Honourable mentions

The PSL 9 chapter would be incomplete without mentioning the incredible Babar Azam, who once again showed why he is one of the best batters in the world. The prolific right-hander scored the most runs in PSL 9 with 569 against his name in 11 innings at an impressive strike-rate of 142.6. Azam might not have been able to lead Peshawar Zalmi to the title but his rich vein of form is a great sign for Pakistan cricket bearing in mind that the T20 World Cup is just around the corner.

Peshawar Zalmi captain Babar Azam plays a shot during his team match with Quetta Gladiators in Lahore. — PCB
Peshawar Zalmi captain Babar Azam plays a shot during his team match with Quetta Gladiators in Lahore. — PCB

Another player who turned heads in PSL 9 was Usman Khan, who scored two hundreds for Multan Sultans and was the tournament's second-highest run-getter with 430 runs. Having made the switch to UAE, due to lack of opportunities in Pakistan, it seems unlikely that Usman will go back to his roots but seeing him represent another country will be a big question mark on the country's cricket system. 

With the T20 World Cup approaching, eyes are set on the national team. Will Imad Wasim be a permanent feature in Pakistan's 2024 T20 World Cup campaign? Can Shadab Khan match his PSL success in international cricket? And how will Shaheen Afridi recover from an unsuccessful PSL campaign with the ball and in terms of captaincy? 

These questions, among others, will start haunting Pakistan down the line. PSL did offer some valuable insights, but the T20 World Cup is Pakistan's real challenge.

Wasay Qayyum is a staffer at