KARACHI: Twenty20 cricket is popularly known as the crash, bang and wallop format, where the game motors along at a breakneck speed and all is done with within three hours.
The HaierT20 cup that concluded in Karachi with a surprising win for the Peshawar Panthers turned out to be one rushed event — shoddy on schedules and organisation.
From the outset, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the local administration bemoaned the lack of lead time in scheduling the tournament, which was shifted from its original venue, Multan, due to the unfortunate floods in Punjab.
The tournament, featuring 18 teams, was crammed in 12 days with 37 matches played at the tiring square (turf) of the National Stadium, Karachi.
With hardly any lead time, the sponsors asked the PCB to deliver the tournament before the World Cup and the ‘rushed event’ unfortunately remained a damp squib with non-existent crowds taking the gloss off from some enthralling cricket.
The format also got the tongues wagging, as only the top team from each of the four pools – unevenly distributed with five teams in two pools and four in the other two – made it to the knockout stage (semi-finals).
Fancied teams like Karachi Dolphins, Rawalpindi Rams, Faisalabad Wolves and Abbottabad Falcons were sent packing after losing just one game each in the group stage.
The format was in total contrast to the ICC World Cup schedule, where the big teams are favoured and almost guaranteed a spot in the quarters through an easy group route.
The organisers also erroneously kept the two Karachi outfits in the first half of the tournament and within a week both were dumped. Thus in the last seven days, only a smattering of spectators turned up, including the final.
On the other hand, the peculiarities of the format were brilliantly exploited by the Panthers. After easing to wins over Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad and the second string Lahore outfit, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa team outgunned the Wolves in a virtual quarter-final through an astute game plan.
The Panthers were led brilliantly by all-rounder Zohaib Khan and unearthed a gem in left-arm medium pacer Imran Khan Jr.
The bowler from Swat is yet to make his first class debut, but his nerveless display through his repertoire of slower balls that bamboozled his opposing batsmen made him the star of the tournament.
Chief selector Moin Khan already has Imran on his radar and remarked that he was a tailor-made death bowler in the instant format.
While the organisation and the schedule left a lot to be desired, the selectors must be lauded for identifying 10 talented youngsters from the tournament and inviting them to Lahore for a three-day workshop.
Apart from the Panthers quartet of Imran Khan Sr, Imran Khan Jr, Muhammad Rizwan and Adil Amin, the selectors have also invited the exciting Stallions duo of Mukhtar Ahmed and Ali Khan.
Mukhtar blazed to a century against the Dolphins to knock them out of the tournament in the very first week. He is also a decent slow bowler and has that never-say-die spirit that can help him make forays at the international level.
Ali also helped win a game against Larkana, which the Stallions had all but lost. These youngsters and the resilience of the Panthers helped salvage the situation to an extent for the beleaguered organisers, besides endorsing a fan’s belief that Pakistan still possesses a lot of unharnessed talent in the game that remains the biggest passion for all, amid all the turmoil around us.
UNDERDOGS: Peshawar Panthers surprised the bigger teams in the fray with a nerveless performance to annex their maiden Twenty20 title. PHOTO: Mohammad Noman/EXPRESS