Five conclusions from the Pakistan Super League final

Published February 24, 2016
It was only fitting that Misbah hit the winning runs. -Photo courtesy PCB
It was only fitting that Misbah hit the winning runs. -Photo courtesy PCB

The inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) has come to an end and Dwayne Smith and co ensure there were plenty of fireworks in the season finale as Islamabad United romped to a title win over Quetta Gladiators.

While the final of the tournament may not have been edge-of-the-seat stuff, the PSL with its many nail-biters in the group stage, most definitely struck a chord with local and international fans.

Here are five conclusions from the PSL final:

If you are still in doubt of how integral PSL has become to Pakistan, read the morning papers: newsrooms that work late will carry news of the PSL final on their front pages. Every cricket fan in the country is hooked; city wars and jibes have come with the territory, Wahab has humiliated Ahmad Shehzad, and all Pakistanis want King Viv to be involved with the national team in some capacity.

It is the extremes of emotions evoked by the PSL that makes it quintessentially Pakistani.

There will be plenty more time for postmortems and debates on how the PSL could improve, but its first season has been a blockbuster hit on Pakistani primetime. More than a final of a tournament, the Quetta Gladiators-Islamabad United clash was also the finale of a project that seemed unattainable not too long ago.

But sold out three days in advance and played to a packed house despite Peshawar Zalmi not making it to the title match, financial numbers now back the case for PSL.

But it would be a great disservice to assess the success of the PSL in terms of numbers alone.

Blockbusters tend to have their genius approved and endorsed, despite being surrounded by questions and doubt, because they capture imaginations in mere moments. In creating anticipation for a second edition even before a delivery was bowled in the final, the PSL has officially become Pakistan’s third Eid of the calendar.

In the final of the 2011 World Cup final, India were chasing a tricky 275. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were removed inside the first 10 overs, while Virat Kohli went in the 22nd over, with the score at 114/3.

In walked their captain, the legendary MS Dhoni, ahead of recognised batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. Dhoni finished the match with a six, on the second ball of the 49th over, ending at 91 not out. Everything about that match screamed leader, legend, captain about Dhoni.

On the third ball of the 15th over of the Quetta Gladiators innings, Kumar Sangakkara departed with the team placed precariously at 120/3. Out came Mohammad Nawaz, to retain the left-right combination at the crease. The experiment lasted for an over; Nawaz was removed on the fifth ball of the 16th over.

Perhaps, Gladiators captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, should have walked out earlier to ensure that the impetus given to the innings by Sanga was retained. It wasn’t a left-right comination that was suddenly making life difficult for the United bowlers; it was the quality of the batsman on display.

Sarfraz unnecessarily delayed his arrival to the pitch, given the many other power hitters still in the dugout.

This was no doubt an important lesson in captaincy for Sarfraz.

Players can always differentiate between a calculated risk and a captain beset by some doubts. In not wanting control of the match before the 16th over started, Sarfraz handed the initiative back to United. What should have been a total closer to 200 ended up about 20 runs short.

Was this Sarfraz’s 'Dhoni moment' in the PSL final? Perhaps. Did he misread it? Yes. Will he repeat this mistake? Experience is a great teacher and Sarfraz has the ability to leave his mark as a legendary wicketkeeper batsman too, but he needs to make Dhoni’s cool and courage a big part of him.

Talking of great wicketkeeper batsmen, do Australian cricketers provide the greatest value for money in franchise cricket?

Brad Haddin’s arrival to the Islamabad United dugout coincided with the side's return to form. If Misbah was their anchor, Haddin became their engine.

Sangakkara could have played that role too.

Which brings us to…

…Ahmad Shehzad, who survived many chances but squandered it before he could take his team to an unassailable target.

In the chase, Dwayne Smith, meanwhile, took his team within touching distance of the total with plenty of time to spare. One batsman thought the job was done, the other chaperoned his team till the end.

That's the difference between teams which regularly cross the finish line and those that stumble often.

  • Smith sends one into orbit

At the top level, it is all about how the game is played in the mind. The Aussies do it best and their's is a simple philosophy: get the job done yourself and leave nothing for your mate

The loss in the final would no doubt bring a lot of agony for the Quetta boys, but Shehzad and the rest of the eleven would have to realise the importance of pressing on when in command.

Mohammad Irfan returned with excellent figures of 2-25 in his four overs, marking the final’s most impressive bowling contribution. That it came from a Pakistani fast bowler is no surprise, but it is to the credit of the Islamabad United management that his fitness survived the rigours of PSL.

Irfan, Amir and Wahab at the World T20? Yes please.

BONUS CONCLUSION: It was only fitting that Misbah hit the winning runs. Having guided the ship through turbulent times, Pakistan’s greatest-ever captain lifted the trophy that promises a cricketing revival in the country. Sometimes poetic justice is just sweet.

The writer tweets @ASYusuf



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