Being home to the magnificent Qaddafi Stadium, the illustrious Gymkhana Cricket Club, the National Cricketing Academy and the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board, the Lahore team, out of all other PSL teams, is perhaps under the most weight of expectations
Lahore is famous for being the city of saints, so it was no wonder that the provincial capital’s team for Pakistan Super League (PSL) was christened ‘Qalandars.’
The sufi title, otherwise bestowed upon those who have ascended to the highest order of spirituality, also pays homage to the nature of cricketers that have called this city home. Abdul Qadir’s revival of the dying art of leg spin, Saqlain Mushtaq’s invention of the bamboozling doosra, Sarfaraz Nawaz’s pioneering of the dark art of reverse swing, Imran Khan’s transcendence to demi-god status (within cricketing folklore and NOT politics) and Waseem Akram’s meteoric rise to superstardom -- all have an aspect of mysticism attached to them.
Even the Lahore Qalandars’s iconic foreign player Chris Gayle has an argument to make on the honorific Lahori and Sufi after his dancing skills stole the show at the PSL inauguration ceremony Thursday evening.
With his nonchalant attitude, love for music, penchant for breaking into dance and ability to induce mass frenzy in the audience with his power hitting, Chris Gayle is as close to a modern-day Sufi a Jamaican can be.
Having gotten the name right is only the first step in the process of appeasing the cricketing connoisseurs of Lahore, though. The Qalandars shall have to live up to the name and deliver. The city is the undisputed cricketing hub of the nation. It is home to the magnificent Qaddafi Stadium, the illustrious Gymkhana Cricket Club, the National Cricketing Academy and the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board. With such pedigree and history, the Lahori team, out of all other PSL teams, is perhaps under the most weight of expectations.
When this article will come out, the Qalandars shall have already played their first two matches and so a clearer picture of the team’s strengths and weaknesses would have emerged. Alas, however, as a writer I do not have the luxury of seeing the team in action before making a comment on the team’s chances for going all the way. So, what I will do instead is put my hand up, concede that come match day all my analysis might be useless and then proceed anyway with a breakdown of the team regardless.
In the batting department, the team is well stocked with Gayle to provide the firepower, Azhar Ali to steady the ship and Umar Akmal to provide the late flourish. In the all-rounder department, the team can count on the talents of Gayle’s fellow West Indian Dwayne Bravo and the talented Hammad Azam while also yearning for the fervour of the PSL to rejuvenate the power of Abdul Razzaq.
The bowling department is where the team is most lacking -- the Qalandars’s spearhead was supposed to be Yasir Shah but because of being suspended from cricket (having tested positive for the use of a masking agent) he is no longer a part of the League.
While the Qalandars will miss Shah, especially since the conditions favour his brand of leg spin, they will have to make do with the carom ball expert Ajantha Mendis and the slow left arm bowling of Zafar Gohar.
The bowling department also loses points for not featuring a genuine fast bowler to carry forward the rich tradition of Lahori pace men but Ehsan Adil is a promising medium fast bowler who along with Bravo makes for a competent if somewhat unfashionable pace attack.
All in all, the Qalandars are a decent outfit with arguably the best batting lineup, a decent bowling attack and the tournament’s biggest X-factor in Chris Gayle despite what Afridi’s many fans might argue.
The Qalandars should benefit from the shortest form of the game slightly skewed in favour of batsmen, and while the team might not have the bowling unit to go all the way in true Lahori fashion, they might just end up being the most enjoyable team to watch. We can expect the Qalandars to give the other teams a run for their money, though, and at the onset will be the favourite to post the biggest total in the PSL.