PSL 2021: Grassroots Cricket Team of the Tournament

After the sixth edition of the tournament, we pick our XI of the tournament - and explain the reasoning behind it.

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It took two venues, four months, countless COVID tests, lots of time spent in quarantine, a replacement draft to replace players from the original replacement draft, but PSL 6 is finally done and dusted, with Multan Sultans crowned champions. There were significant personnel changes in the UAE leg, with the majority of foreign players initially chosen unable to return for the Abu Dhabi leg. So, here is the Grassroots Cricket XI of the tournament! Do you agree with our picks?

The Team of the Tournament

1.      Colin Munro (O)

The New Zealander, who is out of favor with the international team, was initially ruled out of the tournament due to logistical issues. Islamabad United didn’t really miss his presence in the Karachi leg, with the likes of Paul Stirling and Alex Hales stepping up with the bat. However, he was available for the UAE leg of the tournament and took the PSL by storm! He broke records aplenty during his 36-ball 90* as Islamabad United thrashed Quetta Gladiators and was at it again three days later, scoring 88* as Islamabad United chased down Karachi Kings’ total of 190/4 with ease. His 285 runs in the tournament (SR 170) meant that he was the highest foreign run-scorer in PSL 6.

2.      Mohammad Rizwan © (WK)

Everything this man touches turns to gold! He has been performing well for Pakistan, won the PSL last year with Karachi Kings, captained Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to victory in the National T20 Cup, and has now led Multan Sultans to their first-ever title. He was as consistent as ever with the bat (a poor finish to the tournament notwithstanding), and do we need to say anything about his acrobatic keeping? He piled up 500 runs in 12 matches, becoming only the second batsman to the mark in a PSL season after Babar Azam. Moreover, he was the Wicket-Keeper of the Tournament with 20 dismissals – the highest aggregate for a PSL season. The powerhouse is also the captain of this XI.

3.      Sohaib Maqsood

The tall right-hander sprung into life in the Abu Dhabi leg! He was promoted to number 3, and there was no looking back – this no doubt played a huge part in Multan’s resurgence. He flayed bowling attacks to all parts of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, and the most eye-catching feature was his strike rate of 156.77! His incredible form has also seen him earn a recall to the Pakistan team – he was named as a replacement for Haider Ali, who was withdrawn due to a breach of the bio-secure bubble. His overall consistency and key knocks under pressure meant that he was named the Player AND Batsman of the Tournament, alongside being Man of the Match in the grand finale.

4.      Shoaib Malik

He has not played for Pakistan since September, but he is not giving up on a Pakistan recall. His two half-centuries this tournament both came in the Abu-Dhabi leg, and both were in fighting circumstances. He scored 73 off 48 against the Qalandars while a rampant Rashid Khan was running through the rest of the middle order and 68 off 36 as Zalmi threatened to chase down Islamabad United’s total of 247/2. His 28-ball 48 kept Peshawar Zalmi in the hunt to pull off an improbable victory in the final, and the veteran finished the tournament as the 4th highest run-scorer. With the World T20 set to be held in the UAE, the former national captain is no doubt still in the reckoning.

5.      Sherfane Rutherford (O)

There wouldn’t have been too many Karachi Kings fans upset about the West Indian being released ahead of the draft. His selection in the top T20 leagues puzzled cricket fans all around the world – he won the IPL with Mumbai Indians and not too long after was lifting the PSL trophy with Karachi Kings, but his poor overall T20 figures had fans questioning what got him selected in Franchise leagues in the first place. However, he showed just exactly why franchises are willing to pay the big bucks for him, with a good showing for Zalmi throughout the tournament. He finished with 276 runs @ 34.5 – at an exceptional strike rate of 153!

6.      Tim David (O)

Eyebrows were raised when Lahore Qalandars announced the signing of the Singapore international. However, the 25-year-old was coming off a good season in the Big Bash, and he made a big impression here as well. With the Qalandars’ top order often struggling, the batsman would come in to bat in difficult situations, and he made a habit of turning the match on its head from the middle order. He played a crucial role in Qalandars’ wins in their first two games in Abu Dhabi and finished with 180 runs @ 45 in 6 games with a strike rate of 167. With replacement players unable to feature among retentions, you can be sure that PSL franchises will be interested in him at next year’s draft.

7.      Rashid Khan (O)

Undoubtedly the best T20 spinner globally, Rashid Khan is a crucial component of a T20 XI. Not only can the Afghan superstar spin webs around batting lineups, but he’s also a handy batsman down the order. When it was learned that he would be staying for the whole PSL during the Abu Dhabi leg, many considered the Qalandars to be the top contenders for the title – such is his influence. Rashid picked up his first-ever 5-fer in franchise T20 cricket against eventual finalists Peshawar Zalmi. He finished with 11 wickets in 8 matches @ 15.9, with teams often more than happy to simply play out his overs. That was apparent in his economy rate of 5.46, easily the best of the tournament.

8.      Hasan Ali

After five seasons with Peshawar Zalmi, the Generator finally departed the Javed Afridi-owned franchise for a new adventure. As expected, Islamabad United picked him up at the draft, activating the wildcard option, making him the first pick. United needed a bowling leader, and the two were a perfect match. The fiery right-armer finished with 13 wickets in 10 matches, with an exceptional economy rate of just 6.75. His economy rate of 7.3 at the death for PSL 6 was the best by a wide margin. He now has the reputation of a fearsome fast bowler at the PSL, and teams usually give him the respect that his bowling stature entails. Of course, he also possesses fearsome hitting power, which we saw on display during his 16-ball 45 against Zalmi in the 2nd Eliminator.

9.      Shaheen Shah Afridi

The Eagle started with a Man of the Match performance in his team’s opening game with figures of 3/14 against Peshawar Zalmi. His standout performance came in the blockbuster match against rivals Karachi Kings, where he broke through the defense of national captain Babar Azam early on and demolished the tail, setting up a victory for last year’s runners-up. Unfortunately, he was let down by his teammates as Lahore Qalandars were eliminated in the group stage. Still, he finished with an impressive haul of 16 wickets in 10 games with a superb economy of 7.3. Despite a few struggles at the death, his overall death economy of 8.9 was the third-lowest of the tournament.

10. Imran Khan

One year ago, not many would have expected Imran Khan to be picked at the PSL, let alone make the Team of the Tournament. However, the charismatic pacer impressed during the 2020 edition of the National T20 Cup with his all-round bowling skills. As a result, he was duly snapped up by Multan Sultans at the draft. While he wasn’t picked for the Sultans’ earlier games, he played a vital role in their bowling rejuvenation. Only once in the tournament did he concede more than 30 runs, and he made a habit of picking up crucial wickets when his team needed them. Overall, he took 12 wickets in 7 matches @ <15.

11. Shahnawaz Dahani (E)

Easily the find of the tournament. Hailing from Larkana, the youngster made his T20 debut in the Karachi leg of the tournament in a loss against Peshawar Zalmi. While his figures were ruined at the death, he did pick up two wickets and impressed many with his pace and accuracy. He picked up wickets at regular intervals throughout the tournament and played his cricket with a smile on his face. His celebration also proved to be a huge hit, and he finished as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 20 scalps – only the third bowler to reach that mark in a PSL season. Pakistan fans will be looking forward to seeing him make his international debut!

Team Composition and Balance

Rather than just naming 11 of the players we thought were the best, we focused on the team combination and ensured the team had all the bases covered. In an ode to the champions Multan Sultans, we opted for three #11s, sacrificing a bit of batting depth for bowling strength.

  1. Munro is the powerplay aggressor, with the aim of taking the game to the bowlers.
  2. Rizwan is the anchor of the batting lineup, and the others bat around him.
  3. Maqsood is the ideal #3, capable of attacking if an early wicket falls or capitalizing on a good start.
  4. Malik is the designated spin-basher in the middle order, also able to anchor if wickets fall early.
  5. Rutherford provides a pace-hitting option, also having the ability to counter left-arm spin in the middle.
  6. David is the all-round hitter to finish the innings with a bang.
  7. Rashid is the team’s primary spin option, also being a handy option with the bat at the death.
  8. Hasan is the most complete bowler in the team, capable of bowling everywhere; he also hits the ball a mile.
  9. Shaheen is the team’s strike bowler in the powerplay, also tasked with bowling at the death.
  10. Imran is the fast-bowling option for the powerplay and the middle.
  11. Dahani is the enforcer of the lineup, tasked with bowling the hard length when required – mostly in the middle.

Honorable Mentions

Babar Azam finished as the top run-scorer of PSL 6 with 554 runs. He, unfortunately, misses out for two primary reasons – a low powerplay strike rate of 110 and team composition. Rizwan was preferred as the anchor because he’s also the wicket-keeper and captain of the side.

Hazratullah Zazai made a massive impression for Zalmi, showing amazing hitting power as well as the ability to play with a cooler head when needed. He was on the brink of pushing Munro out of the XI and might have done so with a better showing in the final.

Wahab Riaz was once again among the wickets, finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker. He was the closest to making the XI over Imran, especially as he offered batting depth. However, his poor death bowling returns (death econ 12.8) led to his exclusion.

Imran Tahir had an exceptional tournament during the Abu Dhabi leg, finishing with 13 wickets in just 7 games. However, we couldn’t go with two leggies unless it was for a turner. He misses out to Rashid since the Afghan offers more with the bat as well.

James Faulkner was one of the best players during the Abu Dhabi leg. Despite playing just half of the tournament, he finished as the top powerplay wicket-taker. Unfortunately, he misses out due to the overseas players’ rule; the other bowlers also offer more outside the powerplay.

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