KARACHI: Two-time Pakistan Super League (PSL) finalists Quetta Gladiators are feeling the pinch as they sit outside of the playoff qualification places in fifth but have no one but themselves to blame as they made the inexplicable decision of going into the third edition without a specialist T20 fast-bowler in their ranks.
The only express quick that skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has at his disposal is Rahat Ali, who much prefers the longest format of the game.
Rahat has only played 44 T20 matches in the domestic circuit but had never before featured in an international T20I or any major T20 global league.
In previous seasons, Quetta could call upon the services of bowlers such as Tymal Mills and Thisara Perera — two players who specialise in T20 bowling and have a whole host of tricks up their sleeve that help them thrive in the shortest format. Perera had five wickets in six matches for Quetta last year, while Mills had seven in five.
But even the stats fail to truly encapsulate the importance of a fast-bowler in the side, with last year’s game between Lahore Qalandars and Quetta showing precisely what Sarfraz is missing this time around. Mills was the difference maker that day, claiming the crucial wicket of Sunil Narine to turn the game on its head and guide Quetta to an eight-run win.
Last year Quetta had won four out of their first five matches and were favourites to finish top of the group by this stage of the tournament. This time around, they have won just two of their five games and face the very real possibility of failing to qualify for the playoffs altogether.
In a low-scoring league such as the PSL, bowlers become all the more important and a look at the bowlers Quetta’s rivals boast shows precisely why they are the fifth-best team this time around.
Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans, the top two sides of the tournament, have arguably the best pace attack. Karachi boast the fearsome quartet of Muhammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Jr, Tymal Mills and Usman Khan Shinwari in their ranks, while Multan have the Pakistani trio of Junaid Khan, Muhammad Irfan and Sohail Tanvir to call upon.
Defending champions Peshawar Zalmi have one of the world’s finest bowlers Hasan Ali alongside Wahab Riaz, the PSL’s top wicket-taker so far, as well as England pacer Chris Jordan. Newcomer Umaid Asif has also impressed in the tournament so far.
Islamabad United won the first edition thanks mainly to their fast-bowling trio of Irfan, Rumman Raees and Muhammad Sami. Irfan has since left for Multan but Andre Russell and Steven Finn provide a good enough support cast for Misbahul Haq.
Even bottom side Lahore Qalandars have the likes of last year’s best bowler Sohail Khan and Bangladesh sensation Mustafizur Rehman in their side.
Quetta, on the other hand, have Rahat Ali, Anwar Ali and Shane Watson — hardly a trio that sparks fear into the hearts of batsmen.
Sarfraz may have some of the best batsmen in the league but there is only so much Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Rossouw and others can do. Without the bowlers to back them up, Quetta fans can never rest easy.
Quetta and Sarfraz have a happy habit of defying the critics and punching above their weight —after all they were similarly written off in the opening two editions as well — but it would be nothing short of a miracle if they can match their previous achievements, let alone go one step further.