Pakistan’s domestic season 2020-21 is just around the corner with highly modified National T20 Cup scheduled to start from today [September 30] in Multan. Featuring six cricket associations’ First XI teams, the competition will be on a double-league basis for the first time in event’s history.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, teams are residing in a bio-secure bubble, and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has made sure to provide a high-class environment to the players, similar to what international teams and players in Pakistan Super League (PSL) get.
Let’s have a look at the teams:
Defending champions Northern led by their stand-in captain Shadab Khan [only for first round] will be a blend of young and experienced stars who possess the ability to defend title. The 21-year-old skipper will aim to replicate his PSL performances with the bat as he scored 263 runs at an average of 37.57. Their top order will rely on emerging batsman Haider Ali, the rising star of Pakistan cricket.
Apart from Haider, they have Zeeshan Malik, experienced Umar Amin, big hitter Hammad Azam, Sohail Akhtar and Asif Ali. To further compliment the batting, Mohammad Nawaz and Sohail Tanvir will be in action for the league with Imad Wasim joining the second phase of the mega event.
The bowling department will be led by Mohammad Amir and Tanvir who were the leading wicket-takers of the event last year with Musa Khan and Haris Rauf in their ranks.
KPK, arguably the most strong side on paper, will lock horns with competitors under the leadership of last year’s player of the tournament, Mohammad Rizwan. He will be accompanied by experienced Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and the firepowers of Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Sahibzada Farhan.
They also have a formidable bowling attack at their disposal, led by Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan, Pakistan’s bowling sensation in recent times, Shaheen Shah and Usman Shinwari. They have spinners Mohammad Mohsin and Zohaib Ahmed, who will provide assistance with the bat too. They have also high hopes from U19 wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Haris who will look to develop his skills in a much-anticipated event.
Last year’s finalist, Balochistan will now be determined to accomplish a step further under the captaincy of Haris Sohail. They have the blaze in batting in the shape of Awais Zia, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris, Imran Butt, and the veteran Imran Farhat. Awais was the leading run-scorer in last year’s edition as he made 276 runs at ana average of 39.42 with the help of two half-centuries.
Umar Gul will take the responsibilities of the bowling attack, a T20 legend for Pakistan, playing his last National T20 Cup as per his announcement. The bowling stock looks healthy as they have the experience of Yasir Shah and Umaid Asif, skills of Akif Javed and Usama Mir.
Shan Masood-led Southern Punjab is full of youngsters which can be one of the reasons why they are so underrated. However, they have the perfect platform to showcase their full potential. Shan will bat along with Zeeshan Ashraf, who was arguably the biggest highlight of last year’s domestic season. He has promoted to high division due to his performances.
They have a formidable middle-order with Hussain Talat, Khushdil Shah, and Sohaib Maqsood – known for his hitting skills. They have the firepower lower down the order in Aamir Yamin and Bilawal Bhatti. Mohammad Abbas and Rahat Ali will be eager to once again prove themselves with the white ball.
Led by former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sindh has all the ingredients to win a competitive tournament like National T20 Cup. In batting, they have the core of Sharjeel Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Ahsan Ali, Azam Khan, and Asad Shafiq which can haunt any bowling attack on a given day. Anwar Ali will be their weapon to finish the games with quite ease.
The bowling attack is highly impressive as they have Mohammad Hasnain’s pace, Sohail Khan’s variations, and Mir Hamza’s accuracy with Mohammad Asghar and Hassan Khan as left-arm spinners.
Central Punjab possesses a bright squad but they will be without their captain and best T20 star of the country in the first-leg, Babar Azam. The side will be led by all-rounder Saad Nasim.
They will also not have the services of Ahmed Shehzad, who missed out due to thumb injury. They have Kamran Akmal and Abid Ali at the top, Kamran being the leading run-scorer of PSL. They have Faheem Ashraf, Zafar Gohar, Bilal Asif, and captain Saad which provides depth to their batting and bowling both.
The 17-year-old Naseem Shah will spearhead their bowling attack, partnered by experienced Ehsan Adil. Usman Qadir, son of late Test cricketer Abdul Qadir, will look to impress selectors.
After viewing the squads and event being played on a double-league basis, fans are looking forward to thrilling matches in front of their TV sets in these unprecedented times.
Meanwhile, players are envisioning that the performances will be featured and credited, not like the last year where performers like Awais Zia and Sohail Tanvir were not picked in the national team regardless of being at the top.