Spin and top-order are Multan’s strengths while they lack a good pace-attack as they search for a maiden PSL title – with a new captain in Mohammad Rizwan.
After a couple of disappointing seasons in 2018 and 2019, Multan Sultans made a strong comeback in the last season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). They were at the top of the table at the end of the group stage with a net run-rate above 1 (the highest for any team in a PSL season). However, they seemed to have lost their momentum in the long break before the play-offs due to the pandemic. They lost two consecutive matches (Qualifier and Eliminator 1) and failed to qualify for the final. Six of their 13 wins across all PSLs came in PSL 5, which raised their Win/Loss ratio to 0.86, only higher than Lahore Qalandars. Among their current squad, Shan Masood is the top-scorer for them with 395 runs, while Imran Tahir is the top wicket-taker with 24 wickets.
The Sultans prefer continuity in terms of their team management. Hence, much of last year’s coaching panel remains the same. Andy Flower will serve as the Head Coach, while Mushtaq Ahmed will support him as the Assistant and Spin-Bowling Coach. Meanwhile, Azhar Mahmood is the Pace-Bowling Coach. A crucial component of their planning is the Director of Strategy, Nathan Leamon.
Average Age: 31
Average T20 Matches Played: 141
Multan Sultans’ squad is one of the most experienced squads in this season of PSL. 11 of the 18 squad members are aged 30 or higher, and the same number of players have played more than 100 T20 matches. Alongside Lahore Qalandars, Sultans is the only other team with no under-20 player.
In batting, Sultans have experienced foreign choices like Chris Lynn, James Vince, Rilee Rossouw, and Adam Lyth. Skipper Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood are the local choices for the top-order while two of the best local hitters, Khushdil Shah and Sohaib Maqsood, can play in the middle-order. For pace bowling, Sultans will have the services of two left-arm pacers, Sohail Tanvir and Sohaibullah, and five right-arm pacers: Sohail Khan, Shahnawaz Dhani, Mohammad Umar, Imran Khan sr, and Carlos Brathwaite. Their spin department comprises three proper leg-spinners: Shahid Afridi, Imran Tahir, and Usman Qadir. Afridi, Brathwaite, and Qadir can also hit some big shots with the bat, while Khushdil Shah and Lyth can provide some diversity in spin-bowling.
While most of Sultans’ players are well-known among cricket fans, one of the lesser-known players is Sohaibullah, a 24-year-old left-arm pacer from Sialkot. He has played 12 T20s, taking 10 wickets with an economy of 7.26. He was part of Central Punjab’s T20 and List A squad this year & took 5 wickets apiece in both National T20 Cup 2020 and Pakistan Cup 2021.
Shahnawaz Dhani is an upcoming express-pacer from Larkana. After making his FC debut last season, he was given a proper run this season. He finished the tournament as the 2nd-highest wicket-taker for Sindh with 26 wickets. He also had 5 wickets in the Pakistan Cup 2021. He is yet to play a T20 but has played the format at the 2nd-XI level.
Mohammad Umar, 21, is a right-arm pacer from Karachi. He is the youngest in this squad. Umar was impressive with the ball in the 2021 Pakistan Cup, picking up 15 wickets in the tournament, 2nd-highest among all pacers and the highest for Sindh. Like Dhani, Umar has also not made his T20 debut.
- Experience: As mentioned earlier, Sultans have players with massive experience in the format which can pay off for them in pressure situations. Afridi, Tahir, and Tanvir have played more than 300 T20s each and have almost 1100 wickets collectively. All of their overseas players have played more than 100 T20s (average: 213) and have an average age of above 32.
- Spinners: Sultans’ leg-spinners were a major advantage for them in PSL 5 which will likely remain the same this season. Both the venues that will be used this season have a better economy for spinners than pacers in PSL. At Gaddafi Stadium, spinners also have a better bowling average.
- Top-order: Lynn, Vince, and Lyth provide some explosive choices to Sultans in the top-order, complemented by the presence of an in-form Rizwan and Shan Masood. Among players who had scored at least 50 runs in PSL 5, Vince and Lynn took the least number of balls (3.21 & 3.29 respectively) to score a boundary. If the top four of the Sultans contains two of the above foreign choices alongside Rizwan followed by Rossouw, they’ll have a very well-balanced top-order.
- Pace attack: Among the six local pacers in Multan’s squad, four haven’t played in PSL before while two haven’t made their T20 debuts yet. This inexperience in the pace attack will be one of the major problems for Sultans. Among the two who have played in PSL, Sohail Khan doesn’t have a good record, especially in Pakistan.
- Chris Lynn had the best strike-rate (179.8) and 3rd best average (40.6) in the top 20 run-scorers of PSL 5. He scored the only PSL century in Lahore last season against Sultans. This year, he will be an important part of Multan’s top-order.
- Sohail Tanvir is one of the best pacers in PSL history. Among pacers who have taken five or more wickets in Pakistan in the PSL, Sohail Tanvir is among the half-dozen with an economy of under 8 and a bowling average below 25. He will have a big role to play this season and lead the overall weak pace-attack.
- Imran Tahir is the top wicket-taker for Sultans and has the 3rd most wickets for spinners in Pakistan in PSL. Among spinners who have taken 5 wickets and bowled 15 overs in PSL matches played in Pakistan, Tahir has the best bowling average and 3rd best economy after Shahid Afridi & Imad Wasim.
Group Stage: 3rd
Final Position: 4th (Knocked out in Eliminator 1)
Considering the strength of Multan’s squad and comparing it with the rest of the teams, I think Multan have the potential to make it to the play-offs. Four of their ten group stage matches are during the day, where spinners will not be facing any dew-factor, assisting Multan’s impressive spin-attack. In batting, they have experienced foreign batsmen alongside in-form local batsmen such as Mohammad Rizwan and Sohaib Maqsood. If the inexperience of their pacers in the PSL becomes a surprise for other teams and they perform well, Multan’s winning chances will increase significantly.