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PSL 2020 rewind: A look back at what had transpired before the virus ran amok

psl-2020-rewind:-a-look-back-at-what-had-transpired-before-the-virus-ran-amok

The Pakistan Super League 2020, after a long break of eight months, is returning tomorrow (November 14).

During this time, it is very likely that you might have forgotten how the league started back in February, what went on for almost a month and under what circumstances it was cut short.

As always, fret not as The News has just the right chronological tonic to refresh your memories.

Below is the tale of PSL 2020’s round robin stage.

Ali Azmat and Ali Zafar feud over PSL anthems

The first-ever Pakistan-only PSL had its first prominent moment when its theme song was released. The ensemble featuring Ali Azmat, Haroon Rashid, Asim Azhar and Arif Lohar was given the difficult task to match the bar set by Ali Zafar’s “Ab Khel Jamay Ga”.

The quartet’s “Tayyar Hain” did not do much for fans still hung over on Zafar’s 2017 tune, which was unfair as Zafar himself had failed to match it in 2018. Azhar even apologised to the fans, which was taking it a bit too far as the song really wasn’t that bad.

In between the song competition, the two Alis developed a nasty rivalry when Azmat accused Zafar of running a smear campaign through paid bloggers. Zafar, instead of engaging directly with his bald senior, issue a tongue-in-cheek response, sarcastically inviting “everyone to blame him for any of their life’s troubles.”

Later, he released an unofficial PSL song “Mela Loot Lya” and even though it beat Azmat’s official song in YouTube views race (9m to 6m), even it could not erase the memory of “Ab Khel Jamay Ga”.

Umar Akmal pulls an Umar Akmal

The first ball of PSL 2020 had not even been bowled but the first wicket still fell. With the opening ceremony just hours away, the Quetta Gladiators star was kicked out of the league.

In the absence of an official explanation, it was thought that he was punished for a confrontation with a trainer where upon failing a fitness test, he had removed his shirt and asked: “Charbee kahan hai (where is the fat)?”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reason. It later emerged that Akmal Jr had meetings with corrupt elements and did not report the approaches.

Opening ceremony turns Ahmed Godil’s finishing ceremony

The first Pakistan-only PSL’s opening ceremony had all of the glitter and glamour you’d expect but it also had something no one expected. The ceremony was hosted by a certain Ahmed Godil, who inexplicably imitated Prime Minister Imran Khan during the entirety of the event.

Maybe, it was his natural style and wasn’t mimicry but in any case it did not register and was not taken kindly. He became Pakistan’s most favourite roasting target in that moment and was reportedly fired by the PCB.

Amid mounting criticism, memes and general jokes, the bespectacled, greasy haired host appeared on a show, cried and questioned the fans in an emotional plea why he deserved such a treatment. Little did he know that he was providing more fodder to his ruthless trolls. Anyway, that’s the last we’ve heard or seen of him since.

Azam Khan breaks stereotypes

In the opening match, we saw Azam Khan break multiple stereotypes in a single knock. He proved that you do not have to have a size 30 waist to be a good batsman and also proved that having a famous father does not necessarily mean you are a ‘parchi’.

His 33-ball 59 helped defending champions Quetta Gladiators beat two-time former champs Islamabad United.

Multan Sultans defy expectations

With a captain who is not a natural ODI player, let alone T20; a middle-order with two local lefties yet to make their mark internationally; a bowling unit with a combine age of a million years; Multan Sultans were tipped by few to make any impression in PSL 2020 but the Ali Tareen-owned franchise surprised everyone, winning four of their opening five matches and quickly soaring to the top.

They never relented the top position for the rest of the round-robin stage.

Lahore Qalandars almost do not defy expectations

While the Sultans defied expectations, the Qalandars did not – at least not initially. Just as it had happened in the previous four PSLs, the Fawad Rana-owned side started horribly and quickly sank to the bottom of the table – their most familiar spot.

However, after losing four of their opening five matches, something changed. Not something, actually. We know what changed. Samit Patel and Ben Dunk rolled their sleeves up as if saying: “‘Nuff is ’nuff!”

Patel’s 4-5 got them a heavy win over Quetta and then Dunk’s unbeaten 40-ball 99 against Karachi helped them recover from 50-2 in the 9th over to chase down a mammoth 188-run target with five balls to spare. Dunk’s blitzkrieg was easily the highlight of the entire PSL or maybe even all PSLs.

The Qalandars eventually finished third and qualified for the play-offs.

Twin heavyweights get floored

As two lightweights punched above their weight, two heavyweights inexplicably stumbled. Quetta Gladiators finished fifth and Islamabad United last.

Neither fared too badly and both had their moments but it just wasn’t their tournament.

The chaos

The last few matches of the round-robin stage were held under the threat of COVID-19 and behind closed doors.

With the number of cases rising, the PCB first decided to cut the tournament short by ditching the IPL-style play-offs before postponing the event altogether as foreign players scrambled to exit the country amid increasing travel restrictions and circulating rumours that Karachi Kings’ Alex Hales had contracted the virus.

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