[written by: Aamir Husainy/Hashim Ghazi/Zahid Merchant]
We head into week 6 of the season with six games to go on the season, the top 3 teams are evident now while the remaining continue to wrestle one another for a ticket to the postseason. This Sunday may feature some official clinched playoffs berths and other official eliminations from playoff contention. Let's get right into it, but before that...
This Sunday, the Seljuqs will be raising money for their team charity, National Zakat Foundation. Seljuqs will be selling a two piece tandoori chicken, naan and bottle of water combo for $8. Please come prepared.
Abbasids (@ Mamluks – 2:00PM BW1; vs. Nasrids – 3:30PM BW1)
The Abbasids found themselves at a crucial spot a few weeks ago, but just could not seem to get the job done. They played relatively close games only to let them slip away at the end. This seems to be the bugaboo for the Orangemen, as they remain competitive in games, but are unable to play an entire seven innings...or as Dwayne Casey used to say, a full 48 minutes. They are skating on thin ice, but perhaps the Dunton Tourney will bring them some good luck as AGM Kashif Irshad not only donned Abbasid orange during his tourney title win, but also took home the MVP honors. Bilal Javed GM’d and captained the tourney team to its championship run as well. Maybe a taste of success will propel the Orangemen to overcome the odds heavily stacked against them. If they can somehow manage to win their remaining games, and have luck fall on their side with the teams immediately ahead of them sputtering, they may find themselves locked into the second season. For now, what they need to do is put the overall record out of mind, as GM Ahmad Hussain suggests. The focus for the Abbasids will be to just go out, play, have fun, and try to put some victories on the board. In order for this to happen, the Abbasids will need their bats to come alive. Right now, they sport only four players batting over .400 and will be hoping others will be able to elevate their play. However, the reality is that they absolutely must win their remaining games, and this Sunday serves them the surging Mamluks and spiraling Nasrids. The Abbasids will have to do everything they possibly can to shut down the Mamluks who have not lost for the last 3 weeks. If they can somehow pull that off, perhaps it will give them some momentum against a Nasrid team that has managed just one win in their last five. The matchup versus the Spaniards will especially be a tantalizing affair, as the last time these two played each other, the Abbasids coughed up a nine run lead in the last inning that led to a tie.
Mamluks (vs. Abbasids – 2:00PM BW1; @ Seljuqs – 3:30PM BW2)
The Mamluks head into the home stretch of the season riding high as they continue to chip away at their flaws. With each week, they seem to be isolating areas for improvement, and trying to maintain their success over the past few weeks. AGM Jibran Waqar is reportedly also resorting to two-a-day workouts with W K in order to be in tip top form for the playoffs. This despite the latter having been a part of his third consecutive tourney title at Dunton fields. The Green Machine hopes to build off that success. Something to keep an eye on, however, may be how the layover from the last game may affect the ‘luks. Coming into the second week of the season, the team experienced bits of rust, and it will be interesting to see if any such rust may be prevalent at this stage. Additionally, the health status of Adeel Alam also seems to be a bit uncertain. The rookie has been a calm and steady influence, contributing in many different aspects; his pending return should not be overlooked and will be a certain boost for the men in Green. For the Mamluks to continue their steady ascent this year, they need to continue playing elite defense to back up the stellar pitching of Rizvan Merchant. He has kept the ball in play and kept hitters off balance with his approach. The spine of the team with the Regulator on the mound, Waqar at short and Taher Mirza in centre has allowed the fewest runs in the league. The Green Machine is exactly that when it comes to the defensive side of game...a well-oiled Green Machine. What we are all waiting for is an offensive outburst given their relatively strong lineup filled with hitters capable of making dents. The question now is whether it will happen or whether the Mamluks will be forced to rely on pitching and defense to continue their winning ways. These final few weeks of the regular season will serve as an invaluable tune up for the men in Green. This week in particular, the Mamluks square off against the Abbasids and Seljuqs. The Abbasids continue their hunt for their first victory of the season, and the Seljuqs will look to steal one to secure a spot in the playoffs – we expect both matchups to be fiery affairs.
Seljuqs (vs. Nasrids – 2:00PM BW2; vs. Mamluks – 3:30 BW2)
Mere sapno ki raani kab aayegi tu? GM Umair Jabbar asks AGM Omer Dhaduk this every week, yearning for an answer – and they can now say they’ve gotten it. Jabbar and Dhaduk have had August 12th circled on their calendar since the beginning of the season, and it has finally come – Umair's sapno ki raani, Michael Arlitt, is available to play. Arlitt faced a long layoff for travel and family weddings, and was itching to get back in the field as much as the Seljuqs wanted him there. Mike got a bit of a tune-up last weekend in the midseason tourney, and is ready to lead the charge for the Bulls to get back in playoff position. The Seljuqs goal was to stay afloat while missing their top-10 pick, and have managed to do so, sitting only one point out of the playoffs with a lot of ball to play. We will now finally see what this team looks like at full strength this weekend. The SG brothers have also been a positive for the 'juqs this year. Shoaib Gaya came into the season in the best shape of his life and continues to hit the ball hard - his bottom-lineup pop has been an asset for a team many deemed as top-heavy going into the season. Also, his older brother Saad G has had a very impressive rookie campaign, boasting a top-20 average while continually growing in presence as a third basemen. If these two can continue their boisterous campaigns, look out. The Bulls face the Nasrids and Mamluks this week in hopes of collecting their first wins of the season against them. A perfect weekend is the goal and nothing less – let’s see if the real Seljuqs show up.
Nasrids (@ Seljuqs – 2:00PM BW2; @ Abbasids – 3:30 BW1)
Nasrids (@ Seljuqs – 2:00PM BW2; @ Abbasids – 3:30 BW1)
The Nasrids have had a roller coaster season featuring blown leads and comeback ties, but the Spaniards haven’t been able to stay consistent week-over-week. They were blown out in both games last Sunday and were fortunate to have a two week break to forget about it. They face huge games on Sunday with an opportunity to pick up points against two non-playoff teams and cement their place in the standings. Two victories combined with two Seljuq losses will virtually guarantee the playoffs for the Nasrids. However, two losses on Sunday could see the Nasrids going into the final two weeks fighting for the playoff lives. The Nasrids will be excited to see Asad Syed finally showing some power during the mid-season tournament with a few HRs while also making some great catches in the outfield. They will need his hot bat to provide MVP candidate Osman Buttar some protection. Though GM Nirvaan Latif and first-round pick Usama Mahmood have had respectable seasons, Buttar has been doing all the heavy lifting and playing out of his mind (even by his standards). He leads the team in every major offensive category – not no Parkay, not no margarine, strictly Buttar baby, strictly Buttar. The Nasrids would have never expected sophomore Ali Wadee to hit 0.250 at the break. While the bats of Jav Ahmed and Asim Gauhar have been welcomed additions, their lineup gets much thinner with Ali hitting poorly – expect the athletic phenom to figure things out during the two week break for the home stretch. The Nasrids must look at this Sunday as two must wins before they face the Ottomans and Ayyubids next week.
Ayyubids (vs. Sultans – 5:15PM BW1; @ Mughals – 6:45PM BW1)
The Ayyubids looked determined to continue their streak as the best team in the League this year, but being shorthanded a few weeks back cost them. The two losses moved them to third place, but when you're missing your pitcher and a couple of your best hitters, you would have to expect a result like this. With AGM Ali Jabbar unavailable, GM Umer Jabbar took the mound and left much to be desired. Credit Umer for stepping in for his team when they needed it, but he walked twenty batters in the loss to the Ottomans. You'd have to wonder why they didn't go with AR on the mound in such a crucial game given that, though AR has had issues finding the plate himself in the past, he has more experience. The good news for the boys in black is that they look to have Ali and key personnel like Mo Kala and Umair Sheikh back in the mix. When this roster is at its peak, they are nearly impossible to beat. Everyone knows the last two games were an anomaly and does not truly represent the Dark Knights – but losing their grasp on that first-round bye has to hurt. We all know how crucial that can be, so look for these guys to continue pushing hard to close the season out strong. This weekend, they face the Sultans and Mughals - two teams who are far better than their records indicate and have had a plethora of attendance issues to deal with themselves. Look for the Ayyubids to continue their dominance (when at full strength) and dampen both team's hopes of securing a playoff spot.
Sultans (@ Ayyubids – 5:15PM BW1; @ Ottomans – 6:45PM BW2)
The Sultans are coming off a massive week which saw them go 2-0 and lift themselves into the 6th and final playoff spot. Our friend Shahzad Ahmed remains cautious as he suggested that the recent success should be taken with a grain of salt, as the victories came at the expense of shorthanded teams. Ironically, the Sultans themselves have struggled to field a complete roster, having only five players suit up for every game this season – Taqi Ahmed, Zain Malik, Khizer Channa, Kamil Haider, and Shaz himself. Any additions would be welcomed back to the Sultans with open arms, and it is rumoured that the AGM has even offered to buy ladoos for all returning players to celebrate their return. Perhaps the biggest remedy for the Stallions will be the coming together of the entire team, as they gear up for, potentially improve, and ultimately maintain their playoff spot. Overall, the individual performance of the team has been quite strong; however, consistently missing top tier production from the likes of Shaheen Limbada and Omer Chaudhry prevents any sort of consistency developing week-in week-out. The addition of GM Shamil Khadaroo, finally back from his trip to the UK, back into the mix will also further galvanize the roster. Really, for the Sultans, it's just about seeing what their entire team together looks like when they take the field. The boys in white have some stiff competition to close out the regular season. They have a chance here to secure the final playoff spot with a perfect weekend, while showing the league that they are a team that needs to be taken seriously. This week they will be dancing with two heavyweights: the Ayyubids and the Ottomans. Both teams present the Sultans with a great deal of challenges, but the monumental match ups may end up crowning a newest heavyweight in the team we have all been waiting to see – the Sultans.
Ottomans (vs. Mughals – 5:15PM BW2; vs. Sultans – 6:45PM BW2)
The mighty Turks finished off the final week before the break with two convincing victories to put them atop the standings. While they faced two shortened squads, credit to the Ottomans for taking care of business and increasing their run differential total. They have a huge lead in total walks, but that is because they had twenty walks in their last game against the Ayyubids. They have more good fortune of facing another crippled team this Sunday in the Mughals, who are expected to be without two top players. In their second matchup, they face the Sultans who should finally have a full roster. The Ottomans have a fairly easy schedule to close out the season and will be hoping to lock up that top spot before the final Sunday. The squad was hoping to have Randy Panesar back after an honourable journey to Africa for some relief work, but he will be unavailable this weekend as he settles back into life here. The team has missed his passion and hope he can step right in after a few weeks off when he rejoins the squad on the penultimate weekend. Furthermore, Mohsin Zubair, who should make his first all-star team this season, will be missing as he heads back to the motherland for a few weeks. The team will have to make some adjustments to fill his presence both at the leadoff spot and in left-centre field. The Ottomans had two easy victories over the Mughals and Sultans last time, but with both teams looking to make a statement and lock up their spot in the second year, they will face an uphill battle.
Mughals (@ Ottomans – 5:15PM BW2; vs. Ayyubids – 6:45PM BW1)
Mughals (@ Ottomans – 5:15PM BW2; vs. Ayyubids – 6:45PM BW1)
The Mughals come into the last few weeks of the season in the position they have never experienced before. The Badshah dynasty had lost a total of 6 games over the last two seasons and currently sit at five in this season alone. A ton of player absences and some bonehead plays have caused them to find them in this spot. A few once in a lifetime occurrences – Hassan Chaudhry getting married (mA) and Nadeem Hussain going for Hajj (mA) – might cause another first…the Mughals *gasp* missing the playoffs. The squad will be without their all-star centre field pairing this week and will need everyone to come together to find a way to steal a victory against two of the top teams in the league: the Ottomans and Ayyubids. Not all is doom and gloom for the baby blues – the significantly improved play of Faraaz Alvi to complement a fantastic season already for Ismail Akhter is a good sign. Faraaz has pulled his average up to 0.550 after a brutal start to the season. The team also expects to have utility man Riyad Ramjaun back after a few weeks off. You can expect the Mughals management has all the scenarios mocked out, but the mocks mean nothing if they can’t take care of business themselves. Statistically, the Mughals haven’t been playing terribly – their batting averages have been on par with the middle of the pack teams, but all that goes out the window with runners in scoring position. They just haven’t been able to convert those opportunities into runs and it has cost them. The team faces a tough task this week, but the Mughals feel confident they can step up to the challenge.
The two week break is over and everyone is rearing to get back on the field - let's play ball!