ISLAMABAD: Lahore Qalandars is the model of a poorly run franchise, perhaps not only in Pakistan, but T20 leagues across the globe.
Lahore is the second most populous city of Pakistan and Punjabis being the majority population of the country, Qalandars fan base is bigger than that of Karachi Kings even. Karachi Kings is more expensive franchise than Qalandars, but the relative immodesty of the side’s value aside, it has been disappointing its fans from the very start of PSL.
It’s the only team in PSL history which remained successful in qualifying for the playoffs just once, that also being in the year 2020.
From the very start, Lahore Qalandars has remained Aqib Javed’s side and people wonder what keeps the bonding so strong that 4 consecutive failures in first four editions also couldn’t affect it?.
Lahore Qalandars ended their first four seasons in the bottom. They remained 5th in 2016 and 2017 and 6th in the years 2018 and 2019. Last year, Qalandars qualified for the playoffs for the first and featured in the final against Karachi Kings where they remained the runner ups.
This year, after their first six games, Qalandars looked favourites to claim the trophy, initially in the Abu Dhabi leg of the tournament as well. They had a decent batting line up, bowling was the best and plans were being executed perfectly in the ground but suddenly, team started to fell apart as a unit. The weakness in the top and middle order was identified and opponent sides had known that this is where Qalandars can be hunted down.
Toss was the biggest factor if anyone wants to blame it. Teams decided to set a total for Qalandars and side fell short of runs in all last four games of PSL6. Here is a look at a few problems that became the reason of decline of one-time PSL performer.
Failure to replace elite batters:
Lahore Qalandars always felt that they need a quality spinner alongside Samit Patel and with Rashid Khan coming in their XI, the combination looked perfect to dream of. But the price Qalandars paid for the inclusion of Rashid is unforgettable. They had to let Chris Lynn go who was picked by Multan Sultans immediately.
The basic formula for making up a good batting line-up in PSL is to pick big T20 foreign batters, set them at the top of the order and see how boundaries tumble in. Qalandars had a power hitting top order in the past when stars like McCullum, Roy, Gayle, De Villiers and Lynn represented Qalandars.
This was first time that Qalandars were going to rely on local top order batters, the reason was to retain the core in Dunk, Patel, Wiese and Rashid. Qalandars ended first four seasons in the bottom of the table but the likes of McCullum and Gayle used to give them the quickest starts. Their strike rate in the powerplay used to be the highest in those years. Even last year when Lynn and Fakhar played together, the results were magnificent.
This time, they played Sohail Akhtar with Fakhar as an opener. Sohail scored 149 runs in all the games, which were 10 in total. His average and strike rate were 14.90 and 109 respectively. This is the worst a team can expect from a player who replaces someone like Chris Lynn as well as leads the side.
Fakhar Zaman, the fellow permanent opener who remained highest run getter of this failed trip, scored 287 with an average of 31 and strike rate of 121. Most of these runs came in Pakistan while the opener failed to impress in Abu Dhabi, got out mostly playing across the line.
Qalandars had no player to play at number three so each of Joe Denly, Agha Salman and Zeeshan Ashraf got chances for number three, more than once. Nobody could hold the position for any longer than 2-3 games. Hafeez and Dunk failed to perform on the big occasions leaving a lot of runs to score for the finishers like Tim David and James Faulkner. Tim David tried his best to produce miracles like David Wiese but the failure at the top was too bad to nullify its affect.
Expensive Fast Bowling Attack:
It’s always exciting to have a fast bowler of express pace, whatever the format you play, but to cram in as many as three on UAE pitches is always going to backfire. Qalandars had Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Ahmad Danyal on their roster.
Two of them, Rauf and Danyal, ended up proving either expensive or inefficient for the best part of the tournament. Haris Rauf is not the ‘phenomenon’ he has been for a time now on pitches where a fast bowler gets pace and bounce.
When Sohail Tanvir smashed him for 24 runs in the last over of the match 27, the writing seemed to be on the wall. It was a game where momentum remained with Qalandars but once Sohail Tanvir shifted it towards Sultans, the whole script changed. Qalandars couldn’t find momentum in their inning until Tim David looked decided to change the gears but team remained unsuccessful in the chase once he got out.
Haris Rauf bowled with an economy rate of 9.67, more expensive than out of form for most part of the tournament Usman Shinwari even. He could get 10 wickets only in the 9 games he played, averaged 34 in PSL6. The emerging fast bowler, Ahmad Daniyal could get 6 wickets only in 10 games. He averaged 55 and bowled with an economy rate of 9.42. Express fast bowlers tend to go expensive but the thing which hurts Qalandars is their lack of ability to pick wickets as well.
Poor decision making of the team management:
Aqib Javed’s influence over Pakistan Super League over last half a decade is hard to overstate, and he is Mr. Qalandar as well, so long term is his service for Lahore Qalandars. Lahore Qalandars are the only team to retain their coach from first season to the recent one. To most of the cricket fans and experts, the long term service of Aqib is the most awkward decision of this franchise, superstitions and emotions of the team owners aside.
Many captains and core players have come and gone, but Aqib has remained Mr. permanent in Qalandars’ tent. His contributions for the franchise are unforgettable, there is no doubt about it.
No franchise in the history of T20 franchise cricket has discovered and trained grass root talent the way Qalandars have done and it was never going to happen if Aqib Javed wouldn’t have shown his full commitment and dedication. Their talent hunt program has no example around the globe and this has been something to be proud of for the franchise and PSL brand over the years. But the issue is that this is the only thing to be proud of for Qalandars.
They should appear in PSL to win the trophy, that’s impossible without competitive cricket and to play quality cricket like other franchises, you should have the ability of good decision making. Qalandars looked too confident this time, especially the way they remained unchanged despite of continuous failures, looked too sure about the abilities of Sohail Akhtar the captain, Faizan the number three and Ahmad Daniyal the emerging star.
They didn’t select another spinner alongside Rashid Khan despite of poor bowling of Rauf and Daniyal, failed to give confidence to new players who were not with them in their talent hunt program, management droped Zeeshan after two games only, he got run out in one of those. Agha Salman was also tried but didn’t get chances consistently at number three.
On the other hand, players like Sohail Akhtar, Haris Rauf and Ahmad Daniyal played full tournament without any performances. The reason behind that much of trust on these three was that they were discovered in their talent hunt program.
The toss factor:
In 13 times out of 14 games, the team batting second remained successful in Karachi leg of PSL6, but just as the tournament shifted to Abu Dhabi, the results and win predictors also started to change. In Karachi, Qalandars won three out of four matches while batting second.
In Abu Dhabi, they won the first one, thanks to a worst decision of Shadab Khan to throw the ball towards Hussain Talat for the last over, but in their last four matches, where Qalandars went or were sent for the chase, it resulted in four failures of Lahore Qalandars on the trot.
The main reason of this inability to chase the targets down was their top and middle order since no player could anchor or accelerate the inning. It means the roles of the players were not defined. In UAE, you can’t win matches if someone doesn’t anchor the inning, and if you want to lift the trophy, the team needs to play as a unit.
You need performances and character from each player of the side. Qalandars had won five out their first six games, lost next four on the trot. They had failed to chase in their 7th, 8th and 9th game, but in their last game of the tournament, they still decided to chase the total down and once again, when result didn’t come any different, it was proven that Qalandars’ problems run deeper than the landing of a coin.