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Week 2 Rumours

Written by: Rehan Ahmad/ Mohamed Kala/ Hassan Chaudhary
 
Week 1 is in the books with two undefeated teams and two winless teams. The opening week saw 29 homeruns and plenty of dazzling defensive plays. Shockingly, only one game was decided by less than four runs. Everyone had two weeks to fine-tune their line-ups with the Canada day break but we now enter a stretch of four consecutive weeks before the Mid-season tournament.
 
This Sunday, the Mughals will be raising money for their team charity, Naseeha. They will be selling Popeye's sandwiches, fries and water for $8. Please come prepared. Let's breakdown the week 2 matchups: 
 
Nasrids (vs. Mamluks – 2:00PM BW1; @ Ayyubids – 3:30PM BW1)
 
The tale of the Dr. Jekyll and  Mr. Hyde team that is the Nasrids.  Which team will the 2018 Nasrids be?  The horrible first half Nasrids that started last season 1-6? Or the second half Nasrids that made it all the way to the Championship game?  Week one didn’t provide any clear answers, as we saw the best and worst of this team.  Let’s start with the positives, Osman Buttar looks to have found his homerun swing from 2015.  Buttar had been fairly inconsistent with the long ball in 2016 & 2017, hitting only 6 hrs in each of those seasons.  He looks to have fixed his mechanics and has now hit 6 hrs in the past 4 games dating back to last season, including a 3 hr performance vs the Mughals to open the 2018 season.  Pitching had looked to be a question mark heading into this year, with the Nasrids choosing to not draft a proven ace.  However, Ibrahim Sardar looks to be the real deal on the mound, allowing only 3 walks over the first two games.  Rookie Asad Syed looks to have had a strong opening weekend, going 6 for 7, but the quality of those hits are still in question as most look to have been infield singles. 

Onto the negatives; this team was supposedly drafted with a defense first mentality, something both GM Nirvaan Latif and Co-GM Osman Buttar constantly preach.  After week one, this is already in question with the Nasrids commiting 8 errors over the 2 games.  The pressure is already on for first round selection Usama Mahmood.  Even after having a decent opening weekend hitting .500, management is not happy with the amount of time Mahmood is spending on the golf course working on his golf game and in turn messing up his softball swing.  The proof is in the numbers, 2017 regular season batting average while playing golf .343 vs the 2017 playoffs where Mahmood put the clubs away and batted .917! The call has already been made to Mahmoods wife to eliminate his golfing budget.  Uniforms, let’s be honest, in years past the Nasrids uniform colour was nothing to be desired.  The colour had even been described as “Diarrhea Paani”.  This year however, the Nasrids received what they thought were stylish new threads.  One problem, after trying to wash the stink of their game two performance from their jerseys, there was a massive wardrobe malfunction with some of the jersey appearing to turn pink.  Great for Mothers Day weekend, not so great for the rest of the season. 

Week 2 has the Nasrids facing off against the Mamluks and the Ayyubids.  It will be interesting to see if the team will be sluggish after Asim Waheeds Shaadi.  In years past the team would be able to turn to Kashif Waheed as a calming force to keep the team focused.  Many phone calls have been made to the Ottomans trying to get the Senior Waheed back, but it seems there is no package of players the Ottomans are interested in trading for.
 
Mamluks (@ Nasrids – 2:00PM BW1; vs. Ottomans – 3:30PM BW2)

The Mamluks began their season against the Sultans and they looked like worldbeaters. The team’s shortstop quickly let us know, this season was going to be the Jibran Waqar show. But then there was also Adeel Alam. Sources inside the team’s camp begun doubting the rookie, prior to his debut, citing his absences from team practices. Well well well, after 1 game the man hit a homerun at his first at bat and smoked another, leading the league in batting average. While true to form, he did not show to his second game, the rumor mill suggests that before leaving, he left a note to team management saying something similar to what Shaq said to Kobe in the club. This may or may not be the cause of some dissension in the team clubhouse.
 
Rizwan Merchant’s pitching was on point in the team’s first game. However, in the second game, Riz got distracted by the hamburgers between the diamonds resulting in poor hitting and pitching. But it was not only young Rizwan, the entire Mamluks team were distracted by the food and it was apparent in their matchup against Mughals. The team will look to recapture their form in their upcoming games and should have confidence in doing so, particularly with strong hitting performances from Atif Khan and W “the tank” K and the depth of their outfield led by Taher Mirza.
 
The Mamluks open the week against the Nasrids which should be a great defensive matchup. The Mamluks will remember it was the Nasrids that bumped them from the #2 seed last year. In their second game, they will play the surging Ottomans which should be slugfest on diamond 2. Jibran Waqar will be looking to finally get the upperhand on his MVP nemisis Rehan Ahmad. 
 
Ottomans (vs. Ayyubids – 2:00PM BW2; @ Mamluks – 3:30 BW2)

The pre-season projections highlighted the Ottomans as a more balanced, small-ball lineup however it appears the Ottomans did not get the memo as the team combined for 7 homeruns over 2 games. As a result of the team’s power surge, the Ottomans enter week 2 as one of only 2 undefeated teams. Rehan Ahmad started off the season perfectly but his sidekicks were just as impressive. Rehan, Owais Ansari and Taha Iqbal combined for 21 runs, 19 hits, 7 HRs and 25 RBIs in 2 games. That is more runs than 5 other teams after two games. That is absolutely absurd. Kashif Waheed is also off to a hot start in a supporting roll batting more than double his career average. The season couldn’t have started better for the Turks. While the big 3 carried them, their bottom order will need to hit better than the 0.350 average they put up. 

The Ottomans will look to continue their perfect season with games against a surprisingly undefeated Ayyubids team and the underachieving Mamluks. Taha will get to play his old pals on the Ayyubids which should have plenty of fan fare. In the second matchup, Rehan will face off against Jibran in a matchup of the leagues two best hitters. The Otts will be without their GM Hashim Ghazi for the next couple weeks as he vacations in his wife’s hometown in Lebanon. Rehan will marshall the troops along with Tanseer Khawaja who has been flawless in his pitching. The wily veteran will have to be at his best if the Ottomans are to remain undefeated after week 2.
 
Ayyubids (@ Ottomans – 2:00PM BW2; vs. Nasrids – 3:30PM BW1)
 
The Ayyubids entered week 1 as significant underdogs, but by the end of week 1 left the diamond undefeated. After two big wins in week 1, the team’s chemistry and morale has drastically improved. As expected, the team received key contributions from Ali Jabbar and Imran Merchant, while Umair Sheikh, Hassan Zubair and Mohamed Kala all delivered clutch hits to preserve the wins. The team must have stapled their preview in the dugout as almost everyone is hitting is well above their career average. The men in black only committed a total of 3 errors in 2 games which is phenomenal. If Ali Jabbar gets that type of support, start engraving the pitcher of the year award already. 

They will need to keep that up as they face two huge games this week against the Ottomans and the Nasrids. In their first matchup, they will face the only other unbeaten team in the Ottomans. Imran Merchant and A R will face their old pal Taha Iqbal for the first time, you can expect they will be riled up for that one. They will face their former GM Ibrahim Sardar in their second matchup against the Nasrids. 

For the Ayyubids to remain undefeated, the team will need to carbon copy what they did in the opening week. The team has the quality to win games, however, the team’s ability to remain consistent is a huge question mark.
 
Seljuqs (vs. Mughals – 5:15PM BW1; @ Abbasids – 6:45PM BW2)

The Seljuqs began the season with 2 losses last week, but played very tough in their second game against the Ottomans.  If not for a 9 run outburst over the final two innings by the Ottomans the Seljuqs would be trending upwards.  However, that’s not what happened and the Seljuqs come into week 2 looking for at least a split against the Mughals and Abbasids.  That may prove to be difficult with Michael Arlitt once again choosing family over softball (get your priorities straight Mike!).  With Arlitt missing the next month, even more stress will be put on the “C” rated outfield.  Management is still annoyed by their pre-season rankings and feel that they are the real deal.  Here’s the thing, the league won’t start believing in this team until the team starts believing in themselves and starts putting up consistent performances and wins.

There are many positives; Omer Dhaduk has really benefited from his new steroid program and is tearing the cover off the ball.  Dhaduk seems to have settled into his role with the team and now understands how the league works.  Saad G and his cricket swing look to be the real deal, as he collected 4 hits in the opening weekend.  His brother Shoaib is also looking slimmer and stronger this year, coming off painful knee surgery.  Umair Jabbar looks to finally be bringing his Bordertown stats to BSL which could prove to be scary for other teams.  Jabbar has always shown potential to be a true 5 tool player and MVP candidate, but consistency has always been his achilles heel.  Hamza Waheed looks to have figured out how to throw strikes more consistently, and may be the most improved pitcher this year.

As mentioned earlier, anything less than a split this weekend will be damaging for the Seljuqs already fragile ego.
 
Mughals (@ Seljuqs – 5:15PM BW1; @ Sultans – 6:45PM BW1)

What if I told you your team would have ZERO extra base hits over two games, and you would still go 1 and 1? Most teams would count their blessings.  That’s exactly what the Mughals are doing after a mediocre opening weekend.  Even more amazing, is that not for Osman Buttar hitting 3 HRs against them, they could be 2-0.  This statistic actually speaks to the potential of the Mughals, as it’s pretty clear that if they can get even average hitting from their core players, they will win.  

The team is blaming the lack of quality food on the bench for the malnourished performance.  Hassan Chaudhry was even heard pointing the finger at tainted Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  On the positive side, Rookie Shortstop Aqib Khokhar impressed with his defense, especially his cannon for an arm.  The extra week off can only help, as many of the players will have an opportunity to hit the batting cages. Word is the trio of Mughals who play in the Thursday night league (Riyad Ramjaun, Imran Qureshi and Hassan Chaudhry), were a combined 12-12 in their next game, and look to have figured out their swings.  

The Mughals will go into this week one man short, as Atif Parvaiz suffered a training injury and will be put on the 15 day disabled list. The Mughals are known for spending a lot of time game-planning for their opponents, and it will be interesting to see their defensive alignment and pitching strategy against 2 very strong hitting opponents this week, the Sultans and Seljuqs. This will be crucial week for the men in blue if they want to climb up the standings with tough matchups the following week against the currently undefeated teams. 
 
Abbasids (vs. Sultans – 5:15PM BW2; vs. Seljuqs – 6:45PM BW2)

MAGA “Make Abbasids Great Again”: Catchy new slogan, same old results.  The Abbasids came out of Week 1 with similar results from past years.  While not registering a win in the opening weekend, the Abbasids showed they have the tools needed to make a push for the playoffs.  Zia ‘Doc’ Beg, was his consistent self, walking only 4 batters over the 2 games.  What surprised many was his improved hitting.  Doc put in a lot of work during the off season improving  his offense, and the work has paid off with Doc already with half as many hits he had all of last year.  Sameer Rafique put any talk of a 1st overall jinx to rest as he went 4 for 5 with a HR opening weekend. 

So what went wrong?  Well to start, more is expected from Zuhair Fancy.  Collecting 1 hit over two games as a lead-off hitter will not cut it if the Abbasids are to make a serious push for the playoffs.  However, Zuhair is not alone, the bottom 6 batters hit a combined .241 opening weekend and will need a much better showing.  Add to that, the extra outs given to their opposition due to routine fly balls being dropped by the outfield.  If the Abbasids can continue to make strides in these areas, there is no doubt they will achieve success.  Week 2 will see the Abbasids square off against 2 very strong hitting teams in the Sultans and the Seluqs.  Will the Abbasids be able to keep up and go toe to toe? As they say, “Trust the Process”.
 
Sultans (@ Abbasids – 5:15PM BW2; vs. Mughals – 6:45 BW1)

The Sultans found themselves out of sorts in their first game against the Mamluks, but after the 4th inning their potential became clear and they carried that momentum on to the following game by outclassing the Nasrids. The team does have an arsenal of power-hitters and it starts with their own Shahzad Ahmed, who is oftentimes likened to the Hulk when standing at the plate, scowling at the opposing pitcher - the distance he gets on his shots would provide confirmation to such a statement. Faisal Khan sought to match his cousin’s display through a variety of hits, which included a moonshot of a homerun; reports suggest that the ball is still in its ascendancy phase. Not to be outdone, the prettiest of the Chaudhry brothers, Omer Chaudhry, has shown that last year was an anomaly and this year pitcher’s will feel his sorcery – based on the first week, the bat was his wand and the ball went where he commanded.
 
Taqi Ahmed delivered a clear statement to the other BSL teams – he was a steal in the draft and will steal their chance of lifting the ship. But this team not only hits, they showed they can field. This could not have been any more apparent than through the acrobatic display of Shaheen Limbada, all in his younger son’s presence. Sources indicate that Shaheen’s working on a trademark to the effect of “daddy’s got game”. The boys will look to get a series of W’s this upcoming week, but will be without their GM, Shamil Khadaroo, who is currently on vacation with the Queen of England…after just one week of BSL.
 
The Sultans will open this week against the hungry lions who are still searching for a W and the shaky Mughals who had a mediocre week. This is perfect opportunity for the Sultans to put up a pair of W's. 
 
Let's Play ball!