RAWALPINDI: Head coach Moin Khan still reckons it would be rather too early to press the panic button a day after reigning HBL Pakistan Super League champions Quetta Gladiators’ fall from grace continued when they capitulated to a third straight debacle here on Thursday night.
The latest loss was fourth in seven matches and pushed Quetta to fifth spot, just above last-placed Lahore Qalandars. The holders have only three games left — two in Lahore against Lahore Qalandars on Saturday night and Multan Sultans next Wednesday before they take on Karachi Kings in the last preliminary-round tie in Karachi on March 15 — and are perilously on the verge of missing out on the playoffs for the first time in the PSL.
Moin, a former Pakistan captain who also served as the chief selector as well as the national side’s head coach, told Dawn on Friday that his franchise need to win two of the remaining three matches to make the playoffs.
“Of course I don’t deny we are in the danger zone as far as qualification [for the playoffs] is concerned. But the Gladiators are known for their never-say-die attitude because we’ve been in similar predicament in the past editions too, since the PSL was launched,” Moin said in a defiant tone. “No doubt the situation does indeed look quite difficult if we assess our performance in the tournament. There are issues that need to be sorted out quickly.
“But what can one say if the team is playing only 35 per cent to its potential? It clearly means we are capable of performing much better than we had played so far. As the head coach I have full faith in the squad at my disposal, and I expect the boys to comeback and response to the challenge ahead strongly.”
The Gladiators are among the most successful teams in the PSL history alongside two-time winners Islamabad United and 2017 champions Peshawar Zalmi. All three sides have played 50 or more matches in the competition with Peshawar leading the way with 53 games, while Quetta joined Islamabad on 50 after Thursday’s truncated clash against old foes Peshawar Zalmi.
History is also backing the Gladiators to bounce back since they have never missed out on a playoff berth; in fact, they finished second in the standings at the conclusion of group stage in three of the previous four editions while in 2017 they qualified for the knockout stage with a fourth-place finish.
Moin maintained the lack of partnerships upfront and failure to contain the opposing teams in the death overs have added to the problems now faced by the champions.
“Look there is nothing one can do [as the head coach] except prepare the boys as well as humanly possible. There is no short cut or a magic wand that turns the results in our favour. But It does not mean that the players are not trying during the practice sessions,” Moin clarified.
“It is sheer bad luck that the top order is not playing to its potential. We are obviously suffering on the batting from due to the lack of decent partnerships. The guys are not finding gaps they would like and that’s something quite disturbing, and that is the reason we are not putting up big totals [on the board],” Moin regretted.
He continued, “Likewise, our bowling is also leaking runs. The key to this shortcoming is they [Mohammad Hasnain and Naseem Shah] are young and quite inexperienced. I’m sure they’ll do much better now and bowl to their immense potential.
“We shouldn’t forget Rilee Rossouw [who scored a record 43-ball ton for Multan Sultans] and Ben Dunk [93 off 43 deliveries for Lahore Qalandars] played probably two most destructive knocks in the PSL. Unfortunately both were against us and to me that is part and parcel of the game. No one can do anything in those situations except admire their brilliant batting,” Moin stated.
“Personally, I would never let Rossouw or Sohail Tanvir go from our squad but the rules [for player draft] prevented us from retaining two vastly experienced T20 specialists. In hindsight I guess there is no point in complaining now.
“I must emphasise that we are not firing on all cylinders as yet and that is a bit disturbing for me and the rest of the support staff. Adjusting to the pitches is one area where we have to improve drastically. One must say the tracks we have played so far have been very good and playing in front of wonderful crowds at every venue is simply magical because the fans have waited for so many years to the international stars as well as our own heroes competing together.
“I’m sure Quetta Gladiators will not let their supporters down despite the setbacks we have had in the last three games in Multan and two in Rawalpindi,” Moin concluded.
The Gladiators, meanwhile, received more bad news on Friday when Naseem was advised to take a week off from the PSL action after hobbling off the field against Peshawar Zalmi, having bowled two overs with apparent discomfort on his left ankle.
Nisar Khan, the team’s physiotherapist, diagnosed the injury as a strain. Quetta have yet to decide whether to seek a replacement while Naseem would continue the rehabilitation with the squad.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020