Every year Pakistan Super League brings forward talented youngsters who make the most of the opportunity provided to them by their franchises. Be it playing alongside world-class foreign players, sharing the dressing room with senior cricketers or listening to the advice of their influential coaches, they get all the chances in the world that would help them become world-beaters.
This year wasn’t much different as it produced a few good young men who, if taken care of, can become world-class in the coming days. Most importantly, out of the six we will discuss, most are bowlers and why wouldn’t they be. They hail from a land where Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan, Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis were born, and after proper coaching, they can undoubtedly make their predecessors proud.
Shahnawaz Dahani – Multan Sultans
Before the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League, Shahnawaz Dahani was an unknown entity but after the first leg, he emerged as a fast bowling sensation from Larkana. Not only did he have a great time playing under Mohammad Rizwan’s captaincy, but he was also one of the few players who performed well in both legs of the league.
Tall, accurate, and above all, always smiling, Shahnawaz came across as a fun-loving youngster who had a novel kind of celebration, as well as a lethal style of bowling. He ended up with as many as 20 wickets in the sixth edition of PSL, becoming the only bowler to take four wickets in an innings on two separate occasions. Whenever his captain wanted to take a wicket he would give the ball to Shahnawaz Dahani, and he would deliver.
Be it his best bowling analysis of 4 wickets for 5 runs, his 20 wickets in 11 matches, his impressive strike rate of 12.1 balls per wicket, or his two catches, it was impossible to keep the 22-year-old away from the action. It was because of his excellent performance that he was selected to play Test Cricket for Pakistan. Although his debut is still pending, it would be great if he could find a place in his favorite format. Pakistan needs bowlers like him in the bowling attack who can control both the run rate and take wickets according to the situation.
Mohammad Wasim – Islamabad United
Every few years an all-rounder appears in Pakistan who reminds us of the legendary Abdur Razzaq, who could do no wrong when on song. However, from Anwar Ali to Hammad Azam, everyone lasted for a little time before fading away, except Mohammad Wasim who seems to have been created in the mold of Abdur Razzaq. Born in North Waziristan – an unlikely place for a cricket all-rounder – Wasim represented Pakistan at the Under 19 level before migrating to the big league.
Debuting for Islamabad United in Karachi earlier this year, he began a dream debut season where his bowling got his side into the eliminator, and his batting nearly saved his team from exiting the tournament. In the all-important match against Multan Sultans – the eventual winners – Wasim was sent for 18 runs in his first over, but when he returned ten overs later, he was a transformed bowler who chose his variations intelligently and deceived the batsmen whenever he could, ending with four wickets in the process.
Not only did he concede just 13 further runs in his remaining three overs but he ended the series with 12 wickets in 11 matches, which was second to Hasan Ali, who had 13 in 10. That was not all, since, in the second eliminator, Wasim joined his senior partner Hasan Ali at the crease against Peshawar Zalmi in the sixteenth over, but stayed there till the two had added 62 runs in four overs, helping their side post a respectable score on the board. They lost the match but Mohammad Wasim won the hearts for his contribution in the partnership, that was an unbeaten 17 in just 11 balls.
Danish Aziz – Karachi Kings
Although he was part of Pakistan’s squad before the second leg of PSL 6 began, it was Danish Aziz’s brilliance with the bat that helped his side qualify into the knockout round. Coming out to bat against Islamabad United at number 7 in the 17th over, the 25-year-old ensured that his side ended with a respectable score than an insignificant one.
The left-handed batsman smashed as many as 33 runs in one Jack Wildermuth over to change the tide in his side’s favor. The over was supposed to be bowled by Naseem Shah who couldn’t carry on because of an injury, and Sarfaraz Ahmed had to go for a non-regular bowler who was not ready, either mentally or physically. Danish Aziz knew that and used it to his advantage, hitting the first ball for a four, and the next four for four consecutive sixes that were succeeded by two couples, helping Karachi Kings reach a comfortable position.
He was unlucky to have missed the fastest PSL fifty by 5 runs but his 13-ball 45 helped his side qualify for the knockout stage. Without his blinder, the defending champions might have crashed out of the tournament before the knockout round, and we might not have seen clinical hitting that added to the Quetta Gladiators’ misery!
Arish Ali Khan – Quetta Gladiators
If one was to point out the biggest flaw in Quetta Gladiators' strategy, it was banking on the wrong players. After the former champions had crashed out of the event, they gave a chance to the 20-year-old left-arm spinner Arish Ali Khan, without thinking much about his impact. However, the bench strength nearly benched the opposition with an accurate display of spin bowling, which surprised even his team’s captain and management who had no clue they had a winner in the squad.
Arish seemed to have different things going on in his mind when he played his first PSL match. He came, he bowled and he nearly put an end to Karachi Kings' chances to reach the eliminators with his deceptive bowling. Not only did he ensure that New Zealand's Martin Guptill's stay at the wicket was brief, he also accounted for power hitter Sharjeel Khan, who had till then hit 45 runs off 34 deliveries.
In his third over, he castled Najibullah Zadran for 12, while ensuring that the opposing team's captain Imad Wasim couldn't do much with the bat. He ended his four overs for 28 runs, and took 4 wickets, and would have won the match for his side had Danish Aziz not unleashed the beast inside him taking the score to 176 for the loss of 7 wickets in the next three overs.
Mohammad llyas – Karachi Kings
He may have played just five matches during the sixth edition of PSL but his impact was grand when compared with others. Released by Multan Sultans in 2019, and claimed by Karachi Kings in 2021, Mohammad Ilyas's resurgence was exemplary for a right-arm medium pacer. Between the two events, he was drafted as a member of the Belfast Titans for the inaugural edition of the Euro T20 Slam cricket, but the tournament got canceled.
However, good things were in store for the speedster who proved that he had the potential to be a match-winner on his day. He made Karachi Kings his home and trained under the watchful eye of former Pakistan Cricket Team Captain Wasim Akram, and his coaching staff. He polished his skill as a bowler and didn’t disappoint his teammates, his team captain, and mentors whenever he was sent to play.
Had it not been for his eight wickets in five matches, and crucial bowling bursts for his team, Karachi Kings might not have reached the second round of PSL. After his side's batsmen had put a respectable total on the scoreboard, Ilyas came on to bowl as the first change and dismissed one of the openers as well as the number three in no time. He returned to take his third wicket in the final stages of the match and ended with better match figures than Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, and even the Afghan wrist spin sensation Noor Ahmad.
Arshad Iqbal – Karachi Kings
This 20-year-old from Swabi became a part of the Pakistan Cricket team during the break between the two legs of Pakistan Super League. Representing Karachi Kings in the presence of Mohammad Amir, Arshad Iqbal was always going to play the second lead but he didn't let that hamper his chances. Not only did he continue taking wickets, but he also understood the many lessons Wasim Akram gave him on the sidelines.
Wasim Akram’s tips made him a better bowler than before, and he ended as the highest wicket-taker for his side. He ended up with 8 wickets in 9 matches this season which was three more than Mohammad Amir, one more than his Captain Imad Wasim, and as many wickets as his teammate Mohammad Ilyas. While Ilyas had speed, Arshad had the accuracy and with both operating on the opposite sides, it was nothing less than a nightmare for the batsmen.
No bowler from Karachi Kings took more wickets than these two, and since Arshad Iqbal’s ascent came first, he was selected to represent Pakistan against Zimbabwe. One hopes that he has a great future ahead of him and that no matter where he plays, he gets to make his mentor, fans, and teammates proud with his performances.
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