Where did it all go wrong for Multan Sultans?

Published March 7, 2019
Composition wise, the Sultans were just relying too heavily on foreign stars in the batting department and did not have enough quality locals to complement them. — PSL
Composition wise, the Sultans were just relying too heavily on foreign stars in the batting department and did not have enough quality locals to complement them. — PSL

Some wise men saw it coming from a mile away.

That Multan have crashed out of Pakistan Super League 2019; that they were easily the worst team and that their gaudy roster was not built to shine was there for all who wanted to see.

With one more outing left, the expansion franchise has managed to win just two of their nine matches — both of those victories coming against defending champions Islamabad United by five and six-wicket margins.

The question is: where did it all go wrong for a team that boasted the star power of Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Andre Russell, Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan? And the answer is: a combo of player acquisition, shockingly sub-par captaincy and bad luck derailed the Multans' sophomore PSL campaign.

Composition wise, the Sultans were just relying too heavily on foreign stars in the batting department and did not have enough quality locals to complement them.

Apart from captain Shoaib Malik (44.33) and opener Umar Siddiq (26), no local player had a T20 average of over 25 for Sultans, which is why the team had a hard time in posting decent totals and chasing steep targets.

On the bowling front too, Sultans suffered due to ill-advised recruitment coupled with just as poor selection policy. It seems that they loaded up on new-ball bowlers — Junaid, Irfan and Mohammad Abbas — but went easy on specialist in the back-end of the innings. In the spin department, the team asked too much of the ageing Afridi, who, not the first time in his career and clearly because of fitness problems, could not live up to the expectations.

On the captaincy front, Malik had a shocker of a tournament. The veteran all-rounder, who not so long ago was touted as a replacement for Sarfraz Ahmed as the captain of the national team for the World Cup, was found wanting time and time again.

On a slow and turning pitch against Karachi Kings on Monday, he neither bowled a single over himself nor tried Daniel Christian, who is considered a master of bowling slower balls.

That inexplicable gaffe was almost a repeat of what he did in the match against Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah, where he did not use Christian till the final over.

These blunders used to be infrequent under Malik’s leadership before, but somehow, the old dog has learned a new trick — just not the good kind.

Luck was also not on the Sultans' side right from the onset of the tournament. They lost former Australia captain Steve Smith, one of their star picks, to an injury before a ball was bowled. The Aussie was replaced by Windies all-rounder Andre Russell but he also had to leave the team after just four matches due to international call-up.

Aside from Smith and Russell, young left-hander Nicholas Pooran from West Indies and Afghanistan’s leg-spinner Qais Ahmed could also not make it to the T20 league despite being on the Sultan's books.

Their replacements, Johnson Charles and Chris Green, featured but could not have a similar impact on the team’s performance.

The fielders did not make things any easier for the franchise. With the likes of immobile Irfan, ageing Afridi and unathletic Mohammad Abbas in the ranks, Sultan's men were arguably the worst fielding unit in the tournament.

Some would want to give the franchise a pass because they're the least experienced, faced uncertainty over ownership and so their PSL 2019 plans were naturally hatched later than others'.

There may be some merit in those excuses, and for that reason alone, the excuses would fly for now. But come 2020, when the franchise would be three-years-old, no justifications would earn the players and the coaching staff any further reprieves.

Azeem Siddiqui is the former editor of CricketPakistan. He tweets @aze3msiddiqui

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