Positioned at top of the points table after five wins in six matches, Lahore Qalandars seemed strong frontrunners to clinch the elusive PSL trophy. At one stage, it even appeared that the sixth time might finally be the charm for them. Even Aqib Javed, Qalandars’ head coach, went a step further and billed Qalandars as the favourites to win the tournament in an interview with Cricket Pakistan.
Much to the chagrin of their fans, Qalandars squandered the impressive start and it all went downhill for them from there onwards. In the next four matches, they suffered four losses, which saw them getting stormed out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six editions.
This column attempts to shed light on and assess what went wrong for Qalandars this time around
1. Misfiring top order
Irrespective of whether a team is batting first or second, the top order holds the onus to provide a solid foundation. While Qalandars’ top 3 batsmen fared decently during the home games, they could not get going in the Abu Dhabi leg of the tournament. Before the tournament had to be moved from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi, Qalandars had played four games where their top 3 batsmen scored a total of 356 runs averaging 89 runs per game. In the Abu Dhabi leg of the tournament, Qalandars’ top 3 could muster a meager 289 across six innings averaging just over 48 runs per game.
2. Decisions at the toss
It cannot be denied that toss plays a crucial role in the outcome of a match. In the Pakistan leg of the tournament, Qalandars registered three wins in four games with all of the wins coming when Qalandars opted to bowl first after winning the toss. In the match against Multan Sultans where they batted first, they ended up losing by seven wickets, which indicates that chasing is not their strong suit. However, with the change in conditions from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi, Qalandars’ batsmen found even chasing par scores an uphill task. In the three consecutive losses against Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators, and Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars batted second. Inexplicably, in their last league game against Multan Sultans where a win would have ensured Qalandars a spot in the playoffs, skipper Sohail Akhtar opted to chase again. The move backfired again as Qalandars were bundled out for 89 in reply to Sultan’s 169.
3. Shoddy death bowling
While Shaheen and Faulkner regularly provided good starts with the new ball, Qalandar’s death bowling was not up to the mark in the Abu Dhabi leg of the tournament. In overs 16-20 in losses against Islamabad, Quetta, Karachi, and Multan, Qalandars conceded 36 (9 runs per over), 38 (9.5 runs per over), 44 (11 runs per over), and 38 (9.5 runs per over) respectively. While it is their batting that is the main headache, Qalandars need to make sure that their bowlers continue their good impact from the powerplay and middle overs into the death overs heading into the next edition. Every cloud goes the saying, has a silver lining. Similarly, despite not being able to advance into the playoffs, Qalandars can take some positives particularly from the individual performances of the quartet of Rashid Khan, Tim David, James Faulkner, and Shaheen Afridi who gave a good account of themselves. Not being able to make it into the playoffs for five times in six editions despite having eminent T20 players in the ranks cries out for sweeping changes on multiple fronts and Qalandars need to ensure that they make these sweeping changes in their system before the seventh edition kicks off if they want the seventh time to be a charm for them.