New Entrants Multan Sultan aim a bumper start to their Pakistan Super League opening match against Peshawar Zalm, hoping to upset the defending champions at Dubai stadium on Thursday.
Head coached by successful Australian Tom Moody and mentored by legendary Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram, Multan Sultans have the resources in their squad to upset the Darren Sammy-led Zalmis who have lost their inspirational star in Shahid Afridi to Karachi Kings and a late withdrawal of Bangladesh’s limited overs captain Shakib Al Hasan due to injury. There are also serious doubts over the availability of West Indian Twenty20 master Dwayne Bravo who has not recovered fully from injury.
Bangladesh’s Sabbir Rahman has replaced Shakib until he sets off for Sri Lanka for a tri-series also involving India.
The sixth team of the PSL benefitted from the release of some top players from the other five teams, getting former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik and West Indian master blaster Kieron Pollard from Karachi Kings. They also have lanky pacer Mohammad Irfan from Islamabad United and Junaid Khan, who will be playing against his former team Zalmi.
The attack is bolstered by the presence of Twenty20 expert Sohail Tanvir while South African leggie Imran Tahir gives them the fillip in their efforts to get crucial wickets in the middle overs. Seamer Mohammad Abbas can also be handy if he gets a chance.
Multan Sultans will look to in form Shan Masood and Ahmed Shehzad to give them a kick start at the top. Shehzad was not retained by Quetta despite being the top run-getter of the league in the first edition. Shan has been in excellent form at domestic level, scoring 632 in the departmental one-day Cup and another 656 in the regional event. If they set the platform Multan have Malik, Kumar Sangakkara, Pollard, Sohaib Maqsood and Nic Pooran to give impetus to the innings.
“I don’t think we are favorites,” said Wasim. “We have a balanced squad and what I have told players is that they should go out and give their best, fight till the last and result will be good.”
Zalmi also have the luxury of established stars like Kamran Akmal, Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Hafeez at the top of the order. Kamran has also been in excellent form, finishing as player of the tournament and best batsman (scoring the only hundred in PSL last year). Kamran knocked the highest Twenty20 score of 150 not out and then smashed a double hundred in the departmental one day cup.
Zalmi will also be without their fast-rising medium pacer Hasan Ali who suffered an ankle injury on the tour of New Zealand. Hasan’s absence will put Wahab Riaz and England’s Chris Jordan in the frame to take wickets. Khalid Usman, Saad Nasim, and Mohammad Asghar will handle the spin department while England’s Twenty20 expert Liam Dawson is still awaited.
The notion that a team who plays better on the day wins a limited overs match, but Multan Sultans sense a victory in their opening match.