Pakistan Junior League 2022 is the first T20 league of its kind, featuring Under-19 stars from around the globe.
The start of October marks the arrival of the Pakistan Junior League (PJL). The PJL is a new enterprise undertaken by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja. His goal is to provide youngsters with financial stability and growth by using the PJL as a platform to promote player growth.
The PJL consists of 6 teams: Hyderabad Hunters, Bahawalpur Royals, Gujranwala Giants, Gwadar Sharks, Mardan Warriors, and Rawalpindi Raiders.
The following is a review of each team’s strengths and weaknesses. Which team caught your eye? Who will come out on top?
The Rawalpindi Raiders might be the luckiest team as they drafted the highest run-scorer in the National U19 One Day Cup, Ali Ishaq (316 runs/105.3 AVG), and the highest run-scorer in the National U19 Three Day Cup, Habibullah (448 runs/74.6 avg). Both are hard-hitting batsmen and can demolish a bowling attack once set. Afghan youngster Hassan Eisakhil plays the same style of cricket as his father, Mohammad Nabi (AFG). He possesses great T20 batting skills and has shown that in AFG domestic tournaments against international/senior players.
Amir Hassan, the 8th-best bowler in the National U19 One Day Tournament, has one of the best fast-bowling actions I have seen in this year’s U19 batch of cricketers. His bouncers are his go-to wicket-taking delivery, bringing him success in the 9 wickets/16.9 avg he picked up. The Raiders also have Zia Ullah and Naveed Ahmed Khan, who were the spin duos for their team: Sindh U19 Blues. Although they barely got a chance to showcase their skills in the National U19 One Day Cup, when they did get an event in the National U19 Three Day, they didn’t disappoint at all. Naveed picked up 22 wickets/16.5 avg (3rd-best bowler), and Zia Ullah picked up 19 wickets/12.3 avg (6th-best bowler). On paper, this bowling attack is lethal and has the potential to knock out the opposition’s batters.
No doubt the youngsters in that middle order have potential (Haroon Arshad, Aseer Mughal, and Wahaj Riaz), but they are young and inexperienced compared to other teams’ middle orders. Haroon and Wahaj had a sound U19 One Day Tournament but struggled when things started to get rough, such as keeping up with the required rate. Wahaj did have a great U19 Three-Day Tournament, but that’s a longer format, and his strike rate was only 69.3. The third, Aseer Mughal, is a little more experienced than the other two, as he scored a century. But he failed to deliver in the remaining 3 games that he played. Surely he knows he could have done better by not playing loose shots and converting his starts into big scores.
Rawalpindi Raiders Likely Playing XI
- Habibullah (C)
- Ali Ishaq
- Hassan Eisakhil (O)
- Aseer Mughal
- Haroon Arshad
- Kai Smith (WK) (O)
- Afnan Khan
- Zia Ullah
- Amir Hasan
- Naveed Ahmed Khan
- Ali Raza
In T20s, having a leg spinner is very crucial for a team and can give the team an advantage. 17-year-old Archie Lenham (RALB) is an excellent spinner who has already played 7 FC matches and had a decent Vitality Blast this season. That experience, alongside having M Irfan, one of the most economical bowlers in the National U19 One Day Cup (2.5 ECO/12.9 avg), as a spin partner, will be crucial for the team in attacking for wickets and in not conceding too many runs.
I believe Mardan has picked the best pace duo in the draft. Abidullah and M Nabeel, both from the Northern region, are magnificent attacking bowlers. Both have excellent actions, great pace, can swing the ball, and never shy away when getting hit for some runs. Abidullah, who got only a chance to play in 3 matches in the National U19 Cup, picked up 7 wickets/16.6 avg (16th-Best Bowler), but the format he impressed the most in was the National U19 Three Day Cup, picking up 14 wickets/22.9 avg (13th-best bowler). M Nabeel, on the other hand, picked up 6 wickets/28.3 avg in the National U19 Cup. But it was in the National U19 Three Day Tournament where he impressed the most (5th-best bowler, best fast bowler), with 19 wickets/9.4 avg. The third specialist pacer in their squad is Aimal Khan, who isn’t a bad option either, as he had an impressive National U19 Cup with 9 wickets and a 20.6 avg. He also bowls with a decent pace and has a good outswinger as well.
The middle order consisting of Shahzaib Khan, Abbas Ali, Haseeb Khan, and Dawood Nazar is remarkable and strong. Each player in their respective U19 team played at that exact number in the batting lineup, so it won’t be a new experience for any of them. Moreover, they all complement one another perfectly. All four players have performed exceptionally well. Shahzaib Khan was the 4th-best batsman (269 runs/89.7 avg), Abbas Ali was the 16th-best batsman (172 runs/34.4 avg), Haseeb Khan was the 19th-best batsman (166 runs/55.3 avg/93.3 SR), and Dawood Nazar was the 8th-best batsman (203 runs/67.7 avg).
A small concern for this team is the limited options for opening. M Farooq and the England U19 player George Thomas are the only options for opening. All the local middle-order batsmen have not played a single game as openers in the National U19 One Day Cup. In case of injury, one of the middle-order batters will have to play out of position as an opener. This is something Mardan hopes to avoid.
Mardan Warriors Playing 11
- M Farooq
- George Thomas (O)
- Shahzaib Khan
- Abbas Ali (C)
- Haseeb Khan
- Daud Nazar (WK)
- S Tayyab Hussain
- M Nabeel
- Archie Lenham (O)
- M Irfan