[written by: Aamir Husainy, Hamid Malik, Hassan Chaudhary, Riyad Ramjaun, Taha Iqbal, Zain Khilji, Zuhair Fancy & Hashim Ghazi]
After the masses draped in red and black took to the streets last night to celebrate
the Seljuqs going 2-0 to start the season the Raptors winning the NBA Finals, we likely have a number of groggy players and supporters finding anything they can to make the day go by quicker. What better way to kill a few minutes than to indulge in this week's rumours? Opening week had a number of surprises, but the energy on the field from opening pitch to the final out on the day remained high as the boys of summer were back on Birchwood.
Thank you to all those that came out to support our fundraising campaign opening weekend, and we look forward to your further support as teams begin their individual initiatives to support their charities. This week, the Ayyubids will be selling Popeye's and raffling off four Father's Day gift baskets, all in an effort to raise funds for their charity of choice SMILE Support Services. Please show your support!
We also unfortunately have another transaction to report featuring the Mamluks: W K of the Mamluks has withdrawn due to injury, and the Mamluks have picked up Suleman Mann (of BSL Nights) off waivers to replace him. We wish W K a swift recovery and welcome Suleman to the League.
And now, it's time we give the people what they want - here is week two's instalment of the rumours.
OTTOMANS (@ Sultans 2:00PM BW1 & vs Nasrids 3:30PM BW1)
The Ottomans were one of three teams that went winless opening weekend. One may look at the outcome of the games and think it may be a long season; however, if one truly looked at the performance of the Ottomans in the season opening week, there are still a lot of positive signs to observe. The team played decent, if not spectacular, defense. Rizvan Merchant manned the shortstop position rather smoothly, and also contributed immensely at the plate. However, same cannot be said for much of the other players, specifically the heart of the lineup. Don't sound the alarm yet though, as talents like Kashif Irshad and Faheem Kotwal can only be held down for so long. These are guys with proven track records and a penchant for being more than able to contribute on both ends of the game. We anticipate a solid bounce back from the squad, especially given the way newcomers Imran Choudhry, Usman Ali and most notable Abdullah Akhtar swung the bat. In an interesting week two matchup, the Turks face the reigning champ Sultans who too are looking for their first win of the season. They then match up with the Nasrids who looked like the best team out the game this past week. Both matchups bring their own challenges and could really act as a fulcrum for where the Ottomans are headed.
SULTANS (vs Ottomans 2:00PM BW1 & @ Seljuqs 3:30PM BW2)
Though the Sultans went winless to start the season, they have no reason to shed an ounce of concern yet. The team went up against two of the favoured teams going into the season and came away with a close loss and a tie. Also, as we are sure the Sultan brass will tell you, who really cares about the regular season? The Stallions had an up-and-down campaign throughout the summer last year, and even faced the risk of missing the playoffs entirely but for a game-winning homerun by Omer "The" Chaudhry on Super Sunday. And things ended up just fine for them – you know, if fine means winning the championship. So do you think these guys will be worried after a winless weekend? In June? Really? Nah, the Sultans just had a bit of title-defense fatigue. The winless record will not last, but you know what probably will? Reigning MVP Shahzad Ahmed's continued assault on neon-yellow spherical objects on Sundays. Shaz came out with a 0.625/2 HR/7 RBI weekend for the white knights, and with a little more help from his championship-winning teammates, those numbers will translate into some Ws. Rookies Khuram Channa, Owais Noori and Basil Jeelany had admirable debuts to their BSL careers with a collective 0.524 AVG/11 H/3 RBI on the weekend. The Sultans have a chance to right some wrongs in the afternoon games this week, facing a pair of teams on opposite ends of the spectrum (for now) in the undefeated Seljuqs and the only-defeated Ottomans. Let's see which side of the spectrum the Sultans fall on come Sunday.
SELJUQS (@ Nasrids 2:00PM BW2 & vs Sultans 3:30PM BW2)
Opening weekend could not have gone much better for the men in red, white and black. Midway through game one, the Seljuqs found themselves down 9-0 against a highly touted Mamluks. That's when the bats woke up, and put seven up through some timely hitting from everyone. Shortly thereafter, the defense shifted gears and Hamza "the Kid" Waheed dialed in on the mound; in turn the Seljuqs only gave up one more run and scored a total of fifteen themselves to win 15-10. Showing that sort of character so early in the season is all team management could ask for. Game 2 was a reverse of Game 1, with the Seljuqs taking the lead early and clamping down thereafter to stifle the opposing Abbasids to four runs to come out on top 10-4. This week the team will be facing the big bats of the Nasrids and Sultans. However, the Seljuqs showed that they are a team of depth. While the power hitting of Omer Dhaduk and Umair Jabbar is well-documented, Zain Khilji showed his lean build consists largely of muscle, as his hits were going the distance to the tune of eight ribbies. Consistency from the rest of the order never gave the opposing team's defense any rest, which was further amplified by a pair of menacing bats at the bottom of the order in Hasan "Desert Storm" Afzal and Tausif "Toffee/Tausty/THE DRIP/Hurricane" Hussain putting their talents on full display. This team runs 12-deep and rides into its week two matchup brimming with self-belief – we'll see if it's a lucky start or the real deal come 5PM this Sunday.
NASRIDS (vs Seljuqs 2:00PM BW2 & @ Ottomans 3:30PM BW1)
Opening Weekend of BSL Season 6 is in the books and the Nasrids are one of three teams off to a perfect start. While the Nasrids’ offense has always been their strong suit, their pitching is what started really had on point this past Sunday. Tanseer "Robocop" Khawaja was up to his old tricks and after week 1, he has the lowest WHIP amongst eligible pitchers. The Nasrids’ seems to have put together an elite defensive team as well as they did commit a single error. Their offense was led by their rookie Safwan Khan who went 5-5 and was declared one of the stars of the week. What's scary is that the superstar Spaniards did not show even a glimpse of their best form and the team still racked up a pair of convincing wins. You would expect these juggernauts to truly come alive this week, putting up numbers commensurate with their talent and record, and furthering their initial hold on the top of the standings. In week two, the Nasrids’ meet two team with very contrasting start to their season. The Seljuqs’ too are coming off a perfect start, which is not something that they’re accustomed to. On the other hand, the Ottomans have had the worst possible start to the season, losing both their opening games.
AYYUBIDS (@ Mamluks 5:15PM BW1 & @ Mughals 6:45PM BW1)
The Ayyubids got their season off to a strong start with wins over reigning champ Sultans and perennial contenders Ottomans on Opening Weekend. The first win showed resilience as they scored 10-runs over the final two frames for a comeback win, while the second featured a big start that carried them the rest of the way. The team did take a moment after the first win to acknowledge Neal Irfan and Zuhair Fancy who were part of the winless Abbasids squad last season – understandably both seemed overwhelmed with the sensation of winning a game. Week Two has them facing another pair of tough opponents in the Mamluks and Mughals. If they can get another strong performance defensively, where they made some mistakes but were able to recover, they will be in good shape. Both games will be on Birchwood Two so they'll have to tighten things up against some big bats they will be facing, as over the two games they will be against the top three homer run hitters in the L thus far. Aqib Khokhar did well as leadoff and Umair Sheikh did his job in the clean-up spot picking up 7 RBI. If they continue getting contribution throughout the line-up, then there is no reason to doubt them racking up another pair of wins.
MAMLUKS (vs Ayyubids 5:15PM BW1 & @ Abbasids 6:45PM BW2)
After a rough Opening Weekend, the Mamluks find themselves down 0-2 in the young season with a few unanswered questions. If that wasn’t bad enough, news just broke that W K will be withdrawing from the league due to injury. While wishing W K the best in his future endeavours, we welcome newcomer Suleman Mann to the Mamluks courtesy of BSL Nights. After losing two key players early in the season, it looks like the Mamluks will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get back on track. Overall, the Mamluks had a below average start on the offensive end, with exception to Ahmad Ammad. As usual, Crazy did crazy things with his bat and kept the Mamluks in both of their games with a 6 for 7, 4 HR and 10 RBI Sunday. Saqib Khokhar and Arslan Shahid also had great starts to the season with some .500 hitting in the bottom of the lineup to keep the mill churning. Unfortunately, the rest of his squad cannot say the same, as the bats were a bit flat. However, the Green Machine are a confident bunch who will shake that offseason rust in no time. The cool demeanor of team's management style had a very calming effect on the squad, even under pressure. With a team first mentality, there is no way the Mamluks will stay down as there’s a lot of positivity to go around and enough opportunity for guys to step up on both ends of the field. Sleep on them at your own peril.
MUGHALS (@ Abbasids 5:15PM BW2 & vs Ayyubids 6:45PM BW1)
After opening weekend, the new look Mughals are one of four teams to remain undefeated; however, an intense affair that featured some controversy resulted that undefeated mark being a win and a tie as opposed to two wins. The Mughals look to be adding two more bats this week as Tamour Sheikh and Omar Khan make their Badshaah debuts. Meanwhile, the rest of the team look to be settling in, led by GM Owais Ansari who had 3 HRs himself last week. Faraaz Alvi and Ali Wadee have started the season with a bang, batting exceptionally well this past weekend, while Asad Moten and Furhan Azmat are proving doubters wrong with their exceptional play in the outfield. Riyad Ramjaun was stellar in his return to the mound in BSL, leading the league in Ks and ERA; however, this week will be a real test as he faces the top scoring team from last week in the Ayyubids. In the second game this week, the Mughals will take on the former face of the franchise, Zahid Merchant. Seeing Zahid in dark blue is still something most of the league needs to get used to and knowing Ziggy, getting that W against his former team is all he’s thinking about – it will be up to the Badshaahs to ruin his homecoming. Finally, as the majority of Birchwood heard, the Mughals are attempting a new pre-game hype chant. Some say it sounds like a bunch of dogs barking, while others think it's just loud grunting. In fact, the new team slogan is something most will remember after seeing the movie 300: take from them EVERYTHING and give them NOTHING. Regardless of what it sounds like, Papi will once again position his guys to go undefeated in Week 2.
ABBASIDS (vs Mughals 5:15PM BW2 & vs Mamluks 6:45PM BW2)
After two losses in their opening week, the Abbasids can't help but think if the franchise truly is cursed. However, with new management and a different squad, we will surely see a changed mentality on how they will respond in order to gain some leverage in the standings. The poor performance can be attributed to the lack of runs scored and the underwhelming batting stats of their top players. We don’t expect this continue at all and still rate the Abbasids as one of the top teams in the league. Drawing up a very balanced batting lineup last week, we are excited to see what changes management will or will not make. GM Bilal Javed has an abundance of talent to utilize in several combinations, but will need all twelve players to perform to their abilities. Of note is that the Abbasids announced that they will be cautious with veteran second baseman Atif Akhtar and had him sit out for opening day as he will be on a load management program. Look for him to sit out additional weeks as the season progresses to keep him fresh for the postseason. The team has all the right pieces to make a comeback against the Mughals and Mamluks this week. Zahid Merchant will have butterflies facing the only franchise he's ever known prior to this year, but the team knows what’s at stake if they lose focus – that should be enough for them to rue the results of last week (and last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and the…). Expect a big week from Ismail Akhter too as he is lining up against the shade of blue he's only ever worn in BSL only to feature on the a navy side this time around.
We're all set for week 2 to launch this coming Sunday. See you then.