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The stat padding genius behind Karachi Kings' woes

Updated March 15, 2019

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Babar Azam currently sits third on the highest run-scorers' list. — PSL
Babar Azam currently sits third on the highest run-scorers' list. — PSL

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what went wrong for the Karachi Kings.

The Salman Iqbal-owned franchise, the most expensive one of the lot, has always made the tallest of claims pre-tournament but always failed to live up to its own spawned expectations.

The same happened on Thursday night when the Kings, in name only, lost to Islamabad United on home turf, finishing fourth (insert Arsenal jokes here) and in the process cementing their status as PSL's perennial also-rans.

If PSL's most recurring theme and running joke is Lahore Qalandars finishing last, the Kings should not be far behind as year after year they continue to be shown up by smaller franchises.

In Lahore's defence, they have had to suffer through a plethora of injuries over the years, been led by multiple captains, not to mention that Umar Akmal was in their ranks until this year. What's Karachi's excuse?

That Karachi have failed another year is down to one and one reason only: their batting. Some call Karachi the microcosm of all that is Pakistan; "mini-Pakistan" if you might. That parallel looks eerily on point considering that like the national team, the port city franchise's bowlers can defend five runs in the final over but batters are often found wanting.

Take a look at this piece stat for instance: of the half a dozen sides, only Karachi and Quetta were not able to reach the 200-run mark even once. The latter are already in the final and quite clearly too good to be judged on the 200-run yardstick.

The Kings though fall right into the category and fall short. This was despite the fact that the Kings have so far played more games than anyone in Karachi where the boundaries are scandalously short and they also have the home turf advantage.

"We were 25-30 runs short," Kings skipper Imad Wasim said after his side bowed out of PSL 2019 against Islamabad United last night. While his assessment was for that and that game only, it could be applied to almost the entire tournament. The Kings, when they batted first scored too few for the bowlers to defend, and when chasing their batters again struggled to track down totals.

So who is to blame for the Kings underachieving once again?

Surprisingly, it is one of their stars who unsurprisingly sits near the summit of some major stat categories but is fast earning a reputation of being a stat padder. Think of cricket's version of Russell Westbrook or even a Sachin Tendulkar — both of whom are and were accused of filling up the stat sheet at the risk of jeopardising the team's chance of winning.

Read: 5/6 of these experts thought Babar Azam would score most runs in PSL 2019

Let me say on the record — before the comments section fills up with hate — that Babar Azam is a smashing lad who will eventually grow out of this phase. He is too good to not.

But as things stand right now, he has a tendency to gobble too many deliveries, which in formats where it is not uncommon to score in excess of 10-an-over could be detrimental to the team's cause.

Azam, as mentioned above, is third on the highest run-scorer's list behind Shane Watson (423 and counting), who is leaving everyone behind, and teammate Colin Ingram (344).

While Azam's 335 runs make for a fine viewing, what's telling is the strike rate. Of the top 20 run-getters in PSL 2019, Azam's strike rate is the lowest (115.51). It means that it took him 290 balls to amass his 335 runs, which is brilliant ... just not in franchised T20 cricket.

It had long been established that by nature, Azam is a classy batsman, to whom slogging just doesn't come naturally. In the past few years, he has come a long way, especially with the national team. But as great athletes often do, he'd have to learn how to break out of his natural mould and find an extra gear(s).

The writer is a cricket enthusiast from Karachi.