As the fifth HBL Pakistan Super League returns to the Gaddafi Stadium after a week’s gap, Lahore Qalandars will look to make the most of the home advantage to register their first victory this season when they take on defending champions Quetta Gladiators on Tuesday.
The Qalandars are at the bottom of the PSL points table, the position they’ve managed to finish in after all the previous four editions of the tournament, after three matches.
Qalandars’ captain Sohail Akhtar, in the post-match presser on Monday, said the team would come into the ground with a reignited passion for victory.
The hard-hitting batsman, considered to be less popular than the captains of other franchises, believed his charges have enough talent to stage a comeback to open their chances to win the tournament and that being back at home would help their cause.
If Qalandar’s live up to their captain’s claims against former Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed’s Gladiators, it will be two blows in a row for the latter.
The Quetta side dropped down to second in the table with six points after suffering a 30-run drubbing in a high-scoring match against Multan Sultans in their fifth fixture.
For Sarfraz, though, the defeat has had little impact on his team’s confidence coming into the match against Qalandars.
“Our morale is still high despite losing the last match to Multan Sultans and we will give our best to come back on the winning track,” Sarfraz said during the presser.
The wicket-keeper/batsman, however, shrugged off any chances of the Gladiators getting complacent against a Qalandars side which has a poor record.
“Qalandars is a good side and I will not read too much into their three losses to date. We need to be at the top of our game on Tuesday to overcome them as we have repeatedly seen one over here and there can change a match. That’s the beauty and cruelness of this T20 format,” said Sarfraz, adding that playing at Lahore would not mean Gladiators will have any less support than the home side.
“In Pakistan, we have a knowledgeable crowd who always appreciate good cricket, irrespective of who is playing,” he said.
Despite the loss in Multan, Gladiators will enter the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday with wins against Islamabad United (twice) and Karachi Kings — two formidable teams this season — at their backs.
In contrast, Qalandars have lost against Multan Sultans and Islamabad United at home before getting thrashed by Peshawar Zalmi in a 12-over-a-side, rain-affected fixture at Rawalpindi.
However, with six of their seven remaining league matches at home, they have a very good chance to stage a comeback and make it to the play-offs. Multan Sultans winning all three of their home matches is the example the Qalandars would need to emulate to make that possible.
Although, according to the weather predictions for Tuesday, rain is expected to be the spoiler for the Lahore crowd and can prove to be additional bad luck for the struggling Qalandars, who, surely, are not fancying just a point at this stage.
Head to head, Gladiators lead Qalandars 5-3. The only time Gladiators won both their league fixtures against Qalandars was in 2017; otherwise the sides have shared the spoils.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020