Preview: Islamabad United Eye on Third Trophy

Pakistan’s home cricket season has started and the seventh edition of the much-awaited Pakistan Super League is just around the corner. Although the pandemic situation has changed the dynamics of the game considerably, one thing it hasn’t changed is the love of Pakistanis for this league. Therefore, it is safe to assume that millions will tune in when Karachi Kings will lock horns against defending champions Multan Sultans at National Stadium Karachi on 27 January 2022.

Team Preview: Islamabad United

Islamabad United Preview

The most successful team of Pakistan’s Premier T20 tournament had an equally successful run in the group stages of PSL 6, but couldn’t capitalize on it in the playoffs as they crashed out of the tournament on losing against Peshawar Zalmi in the eliminator 2 at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.

Whether you call it a huge coincidence or a masterstroke by the league’s management, it won’t change the fact that the first game of this season that Islamabad United will feature in is their clash with Peshawar Zalmi on 30 January 2022 at the National Stadium Karachi. There’s a score to settle for both teams. While for Islamabad the wound is very recent, Peshawar Zalmi will be looking towards a memory much older.

What to expect from Islamabad United?

 Islamabad United is a team synonymous with success when it comes to this league. Having already won 2 titles, the team has enough firepower to go on and clinch the third one this season. Shadab Khan and company did a decent job in the draft as the franchise didn’t only retain its core players in form of Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Hasan Ali, and Faheem Ashraf, but also picked up some new exciting faces like Zeeshan Zameer, Azam Khan, and Mubasir Khan.

When a group of such amazing local players should meet the sort of overseas players that the United has, the expectations should be nothing short of brilliance. The destructive batting trio of Colin Munro, Alex Hales, and Paul Stirling can prove to be a nightmare for any bowling attack in the world. Couple that up with bowling all-rounders like Reece Topley and Merchant De Lange, and you’ve got a carnage. With such batting depth and this many bowling options, it would not be wrong to call Islamabad United the most balanced team of this season.

Full Squad: Shadab Khan ©, Azam Khan, Hasan Ali, Asif Ali, Alex Hales, Mohammad Wasim Jnr., Faheem Ashraf, Paul Stirling, Colin Munro, Merchant de Lange, Muhammad Akhlaq, Reece Topley, Danish Aziz, Zafar Gohar, Mubasir Khan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and Athar Mahmood.

Players to Look Out for

Top Bowlers

Shadab Khan, the captain, himself is a bowling allrounder therefore it is no surprise that his team has managed to assemble a star-studded bowling lineup. While all the bowlers would like to play a role for the team in their own way, here are a few bowlers who stand out due to their experience and ability:

Shadab Khan

The first inclusion in the list is the captain himself. Shadab Khan was picked up by Islamabad United in PSL 2 and has been with them ever since. The leg spinner has picked up the most T20I wickets since his debut (73) and was also the leading wicket-taker of Pakistan in the T20 World Cup 2021. With his sharp googlies, he would look to take his team across the line.

Hasan Ali

The right-arm pacer was the leading wicket-taker in T20Is for Pakistan Cricket Team, picking up 25 wickets at an average of 19.28. Pakistan Super League has been his go-to since the beginning as we see him up in the wickets column more often than not. If an in-form Hasan Ali turns up at the league, it can be curtains for the opposition’s batters.

Merchant de Lange

IPL, CPL, LPL, T20 Blast, and the T10, this guy has seen it all. The experience of 31-year-old Pacer is nothing short of incredible, and the red team would hope to make utmost use of the tricks under his sleeve. This is his first PSL, and he would like to make sure it isn’t the last one.

Top Batters

Alex Hales

The Englishman returns one more time to the capital city. Hales is a brilliant mix and match of explosive hitting skills and the ability to anchor the inning when needed. Teams lookout for such players so the team management has hit a jackpot by securing him, Colin Munro, and Paul Stirling in the same team.

Asif Ali

Asif Ali is another player for whom franchises would pay anything to get him in their sides. Best known for his clean hitting, Asif Ali saved Pakistan from the verge of defeat against Afghanistan last year by playing a memorable inning of 25* (7). He’s generally been good for the United all these years, and the management would like him to continue this trend.

Colin Munro

Islamabad United would like to see the destructive top-order batter on the side once more. The Kiwi has a major role to play in the setup; he’s the only left-handed batter in the top order so his presence is necessary for the right-left batting combo that the teams so often use to unsettle the opposition.

Top All-rounders

Muhammad Waseem

The 20-year-old speedster made his PSL debut for Islamabad United last year. His rise ever since has been exceptional, starting from debuting for Pakistan National Team to making it to the T20 World Cup 2021 squad. Shadab Khan would want him to nail his pinpoint yorkers, and the added benefit of him being a decent batsman would act as icing on the cake.

Faheem Ashraf

Pakistan Super League, just like Shadab Khan, has been Islamabad United or nothing for Faheem. Not only was he the first Pakistan bowler to get a hattrick in T20Is, but his ability to hit the long bowl is something every franchise can use. The best part? He has been simply exceptional while playing for the red shirts. Only 3 players have been able to get a six-wicket haul in the PSL, he is one of them. 

Islamabad United’s squad looks balanced on paper so a dominant performance in the PSL 7 shouldn’t come out as a surprise. However, will they be able to translate these strengths on paper into performances on the ground? Time will tell.

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