The third edition of Faysal Bank Super 8 T20 tournament is underway in Lahore. This tournament along with the usual T20 Cup was scrapped in favor of Pakistan Super League but due to the postponment of PSL , It is once again added to the domestic calender as the main T20 event. This tournament is important in many ways, not only will it help Pakistan to find some new or fresh talent, it will also decide the one participant from Pakistan in the Champions League which will take place in september this year.
Format of the tournament is simple. Eight teams are divided in two groups of four and will play each other once. Here is a look at the groups. all the teams participating in the tournament, how they may progress and perform and the players to watch out for.
Abbottabad Falcons, Lahore Lions, Multan Tigers, Sialkot Stallions.
Abbottabad Falcons are the weakest team in the group. Even though they have the likes of Junaid Khan and leg spinner Yasir Shah in the bowling department, their isn't any capable bowler to back these two. Their batting has always been a problem for them and they lack a quality player in the middle order. Younis Khan, who was named the captain of the Abbottabad is not participating in the tournament which leaves Yasir Hameed as the only capable batsman in the squad. By the looks of it Abbottabad will finish last in the group.
Lahore Lions are the strongest team in the tournament. They always have been the strongest team in terms of the squad they possess with as many as eight international players, but have mostly failed to live up to the expectations. With the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed to open, Kamran and Umar Akmal to support, Abdul Razzaq as an all rounder, Wahab Riaz and Aizaz Cheema in the bowling squad this team sure looks like a winning combination which is boosted by the fact that Muhammad Hafeez has taken over the captaincy, winning them the FB T20 Cup in december last year. They will top the group and easily qualify for the semi final and if over confidence doesn't become a hurdle they are the favorites to win the tournament.
Multan Tigers are the dark horse in the Domestic T20 tournaments having finished second in their group consistently over the past five years and reaching the semi final in the last one but when it comes to the Super Eight T20, they have been a disappointment. Same looks to be the case this time and they may find it difficult to grab the top spots. They don't have a strong team but always are able to give a tough fight because of their bowling squad which will be less destructive in the absence of Muhammad Irfan. They still have Rahat Ali and Zulfiqar Babar but their batting is not their strongest point. They will probably finish third in the group.
Sialkot Stallions for sure are the most outstanding team in Pakistan's Domestic T20 history. Not only are they defending champions of Super Eight T20 they have won the domestic T20 tournament as many as six times in the past nine years. Lead by Shoaib Malik they are the only team from Pakistan that participated in the Champions League so far. They may not look the most threatening team but Imran Nazir on his day can win matches on his own. Their spin bowling department is the strongest with the captain himself, Abdul Rehman and Raza Hasan. Rana Naved can also play an important role but for Sialkot the X-Factor has always been Shoaib Malik's captaincy. They will finish second in the group barring any upsets and can even go on to win the tournament judging by the history.
Bahawalpur Stags, Faisalabad Wolves, Karachi Dolphins, Rawalpindi Rams.
Bahawalpur Stags were the surprise package when they played in the recent T20 tournament for the first time and were able to reach the semi final. But there is no doubt they are the weakest team in the tournament. Their biggest negative being the inexperience they have both in batting and bowling as well as of competitive cricket, which will put them at the bottom of the table in group B as the other three teams look stronger. The only notable and experienced player in the team is Bilal Khilji, the 37 year old veteran who is captaining the side as well.
Faisalabad Wolves have always been one of the top side. They were the winners of the first ever T20 tournament played but ever since haven't been able to repeat the performance. A regular in semi finals they ought to thank Misbah ul Haq and Saeed Ajmal for their strong performances. But with Saeed Ajmal not playing they may find it difficult to go all the way and win the tournament. With Muhammad Hafeez joining Lahore Lions, they have also lost a dependable batsman which will leave Misbah and Naveed Latif to share the burden of batting. They will battle hard for the second spot and may edge ahead other teams to secure a place in semi final.
Karachi Dolphins ought to be called the chokers of Pakistani T20 tournaments. Four time finalists of T20 tournament and also the finalists of both the editions of Super Eight T20 tournament, they have never been able to win any of these. A team that has as many as nine international players playing and led by Shahid Afridi this is a disappointing result. What more is that Afridi is not participating in the current tournament so they won't have that edge over other teams they used to have. Although they have players like Shahzeb Hasan, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Khalid Latif who can win games on their day, Karachi will fight out the second spot and may lose out this time. But if they grab any of the top two spots, we may see them in another final.
Rawalpindi Rams may not look strong on paper but they have a young and well balanced side. Lead by Sohail Tanvir, they won the inaugural Super Eight T20 tournament by playing attacking and brave cricket. They also have Yasir Arafat in the team who may not look threatening but is the 5th highest wicket taker in T20 history. While Awais Zia will provide fire power at the top Umar Amin will be the key for them in the batting department. He has been the inform batsman in the domestic circuit over the past year. With other teams struggling, Rawalpindi may end the group stage as the top team in group B.