United We Won: The Journey to the Shooting Star (SPORTS) | Edited by Ali Naqvi and Zehra Naqvi | Photos by Shahbaz Akhtar Cheema, Waheed Hussain and others | Leonine Global | ISBN: 978-9881726605 | 283pp.
This is an ambitious coffee-table book published and marketed as memorabilia for cricket-crazy fans by the Pakistan Super League (PSL) team Islamabad United, which lifted the trophy in the inaugural edition of the tournament in February 2016.
It is a visual treat giving the inside story of Islamabad United’s journey from a non-existent entity to a household name. Today, fans of the team, — which is this year again headed by Misbah ul Haq — don’t seem to have too much of a problem with paying five thousand rupees for the treatise.
Published by the company Leonine Global Sports Limited, which owns the team, the book takes readers from the idea of fielding a team in the league to how it was eventually put together, including the hurdles and frustrations encountered till the project came into its own.
It was a learning experience throughout, especially for the team owners who, other than their love of cricket, had no experience with sports teams. But as Ali writes in the book, “To understand the success is to understand the successful.” So they interacted with consultants in India and Australia who had worked with the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League franchises.
What started as a business idea later got the owners involved in the spirit of the game. But to win they had to look to the experts. Thus came in the coaches, the mentors, brand ambassadors, etc., along with the team that was actually supposed to go on the field and face the other opponents in the league, namely, the Quetta Gladiators, the Peshawar Zalmi, the Lahore Qalandars, and the Karachi Kings.
“The first name in our minds to lead the whole operation was a man we could never have really gotten [sic] on board. His political life would have made it impossible for him to ever be involved,” Ali shares in the book, hinting at former cricketing great Imran Khan. He continues: “The second name on our list was the man who is the other cricketer in the discussion for ‘the greatest Pakistan has ever produced’.” Getting Wasim Akram on board as the mentor, they looked for their brand ambassador and brought in actor Fawad Khan, followed by singer Ali Zafar as the voice of Islamabad for their team song ‘Chhaka Choka’.
For coaching the playing side they managed to bring in former cricketer Dean Jones from Down Under along with his group of experts, including Darren Berry, Dean Woodford, and Erroll Alcott, and the Australian winning mentality. Senior ex-cricketer Tauseef Ahmed, who knew the domestic season in Pakistan well, joined in too. Ahmed also bridged the gap between the rest of the coaching team and the players.
With a strong base, everything else started falling in place, and when picking the playing team, Islamabad United luckily got the first go in the draft. That’s how Shane Watson, Andre Russell, and Misbah ul Haq came to the side.
As the tournament got under way, there were setbacks in the shape of losses and injuries. Still, the team owners kept their faith in the boys, asking them to ignore negative comments regarding their performance and do their best while playing as a team. This gave the team confidence. “You pick the best men and women for the job, and then you give them free rein to do as they wish …” writes Ali.
None of the Pakistani players in Islamabad United were in the national T20 squad that played in New Zealand in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Yet by the end of the PSL, half a dozen of them made a return to, or got their first entry into, the national T20 team.
The book also includes a chapter by Dean Jones remembering the final, in which favourites Quetta Gladiators set a tough target of 174 runs for them and how a fairytale came true with Misbah leading from the front to win the match and the first PSL edition.
The book is a collector’s item, gaining more prominence at the time of the new league season. It can also help other bidders for teams in the PSL, when they bring in more city teams, on how to market, run operations, handle finances, and find the best people for the job.
There are hundreds of coloured pictures capturing moments from each match, from the toss till the last ball bowled, published on high-quality art paper by printers in Hong Kong. Player profiles, stats and figures, and game summaries help one get to know the players better and knowing their stories could make you a fan of the team, to cheer for them in this year’s edition of the PSL that is set to kick off shortly.
The reviewer is a member of staff.
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, February 5th, 2017