[written by: Aamir Husainy, Ibrahim Sardar, Hamid Malik, Riyad Ramjaun, Taha Iqbal, Zain Khilji, & Hashim Ghazi]
Now two weeks in, things are starting to take shape a bit in BSL VI. The Mughals, Ayyubids and Nasrids have looked like the cream of the crop, while the Abbasids and Mamluks are battling it out for the role of the cream of the not. It remains to be seen as to whether the Lions and Gangreen are toast or whether they can turn it around. Meanwhile, teams like the Sultans, Ottomans and Seljuqs have shown two contrasting identities thus far - perhaps this weekend solidifies which side of these teams is real and which is fluke.
After a successful campaign by the Ayyubids for SMILE Support Services, the Seljuqs will be raising funds for their charity of choice Islamic Relief Canada. Be on the lookout for more information from your GMs on how you can contribute to the cause come gameday.
Rumours. Week Three. Let's go.
OTTOMANS (@ Abbasids 2:00PM BW1 & @ Mughals 3:30PM BW2)
Writing off the Ottomans after week 1 was never a good idea. Week 2 saw the Turks roar back into contention with two solid performances. While the offense flexed their muscles in the first game against the Sultans, we saw a defensive masterclass in the second game against the Nasrids. Rookie sensation Abdullah Akhtar is off to a flying start and is responsible for almost half of the team’s RBIs. Zia "Doc" Beg has been on point with his pitching as well, keeping the Nasrids and Sultans’ powerhouses to a combined 17 hits over 14 innings this past Sunday. The Ottomans will have a stiff challenge this week as they’re expected to be without their lynchpin, Rizvan Merchant. This week the Ottomans face a pair of franchises on opposite ends of the spectrum, but will have to heed caution to whoever their opponent is to make up for their rough week one results. The Abbasids’ showed signs of finally coming out of their slump and will give Ottomans a run for their money in the first game of the day. Also, Mughals have steamrolled their opponents thus far and they’d go in to their matchup against Ottomans as favorites if they’re anywhere close to being full-strength this Sunday.
ABBASIDS (vs Ottomans 2:00PM BW1 & @ Seljuqs 3:30PM BW1)
On the heels of an embarrassing loss, the Abbasids gutted out a hard fought tie after finding themselves down 12-0 in the evening game last week that may be what they needed to reignite the orange flame. The resilient comeback was exactly what the doctor ordered for a franchise on a 20-game winless run dating back to 2017. But don't throw that stat out to the veteran leaders in this group. Mohamed "Sponsor" Kala, Arshad "Archie" Chawdhry, and Atif "Snoop" Akhtar are leading by example with their all-around efforts. The problem for the Lions has been the slow (and perhaps, unlucky) start the top of the order has endured during the 2019 campaign. Ismail Akhter is poised for his breakout game of the season as it seems he may be taking Pakistan's disappointing Cricket World Cup results to heart. Despite stalling out the gates, the boys remain upbeat about the task at hand and remain as confident as ever in turning the fortunes of this franchise around. Just ask Ahmed "AB" Butt who seems to have finally found the right swing mechanics and seems like a totally different player at the plate (Masha 'Allah). The team is excited to welcome Sameer Rafique back into the lineup after he missed last week's games camping out at Nathan Phillips Square for the Raptors Championship Parade. A couple of 2-2 teams await in the Ottomans and Seljuqs in what is shaping up to be a pivotal weekend at the early stages of the season with a bye week to follow. The Abbasids have the depth and belief to defeat both teams, especially after a lackluster offensive effort against the Bulls in week 1 still fresh on their minds.
SELJUQS (@ Mughals 2:00PM BW2 & vs Abbasids 3:30PM BW1)
It was all good just a week ago. The Seljuqs were riding high after a 2-0 start to the campaign, only to see the buzz get wiped out with an 0-2 performance in Week 2. It is tough to assess what exactly went wrong, but clearly something did. Look for the Bulls to focus on what they did well in Week 1 to bounce back versus focusing on what went wrong in Week 2. The defense looked impressive this past Sunday, with Omer Dhaduk and Umair Jabbar making plays all over the field to keep their opponents within striking distance. Also, Umer Jabbar showed up in midseason form after hitting two huge homeruns on the day; his power in the bottom of the lineup will no doubt be an asset for the side going forward. Of concern lies the health of their players, with half of the team showing some kind of injury by the end of the day Sunday. Here's to hoping the squad fitness is up to par this Sunday with a two week lay-off looming in the distance. The team hopes to welcome back shortstop Kamil Haider this week after he was unavailable last week to witness the birth of his third child (priorities, Kamil – come on). The boys in red face a tough task in game one against the league leading Mughals, and then face an Abbasids side hungry for their first win on the season. Though it's still early in the season, this is as close to a "make it or break it" weekend as can be, and count on these Bulls to charge forward at full speed.
MUGHALS (vs Seljuqs 2:00PM BW2 & vs Ottomans 3:30PM BW2)
Entering week 3, the Mughals stand as the only remaining undefeated team and, in the process of doing so, now have a large target on their backs. Week 2 saw the Badshaahs dismantle the Abbasids and hang on for a win against the always dangerous Ayyubids, and Week 3 doesn’t get any easier. Although the Mughals took care of business in Week 1 against the Ottomans, the Turks have bounced back themselves and will be dangerous come Sunday. In game 2, the Mughals will face the Seljuqs who, if taken lightly, will make you pay. The Mughals have been winning games this year on the backs of both their offense and defense. Offensively, the team is a juggernaut with quality bat after quality bat in the lineup and is a nightmare for any opposing pitcher. Week 2 also proved those naysayers questioning why the reigning playoff MVP was taken first overall, as Shaheen Limbada was voted as a star of the week after going 6/7 (with a controversial error call stopping him from a perfect day at the plate), hitting 2 homeruns driving in 7 RBIs. If you ask his pitcher Riyad Ramjaun though, he will tell you that it’s Slim's defense that is the real star, as Shaheen routinely make highlight catch after highlight catch. Unfortunately for the men in blue, Shaheen will not be available to play this week, and instead will rely on the next man up to ensure that things don't go awry in his absence. In other Mughals news, Asad Moten has been a revelation at 1st base and saw his first homerun of the season called off due to the team maxing out the HR differential – sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing. This was karma in its purest form, as Asad opted to keep the neon shorts at home in exchange for extremely fitted baseball pants with no socks (Editor's note: that's disgusting). The team held an intervention and are hoping that he reverts to the shorts for the remainder of the season, but if this is the only concern a team has, things seem to be going just fine.
SULTANS (@ Mamluks 5:15PM BW1 & @ Ayyubids 6:45PM BW2)
The Sultans are back in business. With Faisal "Big Fai" Khan making some new deals with the homerun fence and enhancement supplement suppliers (NOT TRUE!), we could start to see the Sultans climb back to the top where they sat all off-season as reigning champs – something GM Shamil Khadaroo refuses to allow the League (and everyone else he knows for that matter) to forget. The Sultans had their best game in their only win this season and have put up a competitive run total by League standards. However, the defense has allowed too many runs for them to chase. On the bright side, Owais Noori has shown that he can flash some leather at short and with a reliable glove in outfield in Omer ‘Payn’ Chaudhary, the Sultans will look to fire on all cylinders and gain momentum in the standings this week. We don’t need to mention the added threat of Shahzad 'Shaz' Ahmed. The rookies have really rounded off the team in all aspects, particularly Basil Jeelany on the mound, and there is no reason to believe they won’t challenge to successfully repeat. They have a complete team and have what it takes to compete – let’s see what week 3 has in store against the Mamluks and Ayyubids.
MAMLUKS (vs Sultans 5:15PM BW1 & @ Nasrids 6:45PM BW1)
Two weeks in the books and the Mamluks have yet to win a game. The (sort of) silver lining this week was a tie against the Abbasids, but there is no reason the Mamluks should be celebrating that result after giving up should have lost that game after being up 12-0. They let the Abbasids crawl back into the game and before we knew it, game was tied as the final inning was called. For the boys in green, they’re still a little sluggish after the long offseason but we’re starting to see guys wake up and swing the bat with confidence. Suleman Mann was huge in his BSL debut going 5/7 with a homerun and an impressive display in the outfield. Add in the fact that Yousaf Chaudhry makes his long-awaited return to the team next week, things are looking up for the Green Machine. Imran Qureshi, Umair Wasim, Salman Ahmad and Hamid Malik have left a lot to be desired in their starts to the season, but it's only a matter of time before these guys shake off that rust and start contributing to their full potential. The Malik brothers face off against one another for the first time in BSL history when the Mamluks oppose the Sultans (which also features a Choudhry brother battle). Both teams are confident in their Malik-Chaudhry duo but only time will tell which pair gets the last laugh. Another bright spot has been the play of Zayd Ramjaun, who made his GM look good with a great day at the plate after being moved up in the order. Saqib Khokhar and Arslan Shahid both continue to impress as they have been consistent at the plate and in the infield. The Mamluks do not be given any favours as the rematch of the finals last year is followed up by a date with the Nasrids. The Mamluks may be second last in standings for now but, so were the St. Louis Blues at one point, and if we remember correctly, they just won the Stanley Cup. Any team in this League has what it takes to win it all and can get hot at any given moment. Look for the Mamluks to start heating up in the coming weeks as we move into a much anticipated week 3.
NASRIDS (@ Ayyubids 5:15PM BW2 & vs Mamluks 6:45PM BW1)
The Nasrids are coming off week 2 with a split that still leaves a sour taste in the Spaniards mouth. In their first game against the Seljuqs, the Nasrids came back against the Seljuqs on an Asad Syed walk-off homerun. However, in their second game of the afternoon, the Nasrids were stifled and only able to put up four runs. No blame goes to early rookie-of-the-year favourite Safwan Khan though, as he continues to light up the league; Saf was finally recorded out and sees his average drop to a very disappointing 0.929 – the slump in Khan's form has GM Nirvaan Latif considering moving him to the bottom of the lineup or maybe even asking him not to show up anymore given his detrimental form (note: sarcasm). Moving forward, the Nasrids will need a little more production from the bottom of the order to continue progressing upwards. That being said, we do expect some regression to the mean as Nirvaan's numbers will surely improve. Additionally, the Nasrids boast a solid defensive unit and are likely itching to get back onto the field to try and reclaim the top spot in the standings. Week 3 pins them against the Ayyubids in a primo matchup, while the second game features a rematch of their week one opponents in the Mamluks. It should be a fun week 3, and will give some insight about how the standings will shape up. When assessing who are the real contenders and who are the pretenders, we expect the Nasrids to emerge as the former.
AYYUBIDS (vs Nasrids 5:15PM BW2 & vs Sultans 6:45PM BW2)
The boys in black continue to roll thanks to a balanced team picking their spots against worthy opponents. In fact, things have looked so good for the Kurds that there has been no talk of the biggest story not making headlines thus far. What on earth is going on with Jibran Waqar? Does he only possess superpowers wearing green-and-yellow? Has the loss of "the Regulator" in his corner really damaged his drive to win? What are we missing here? Jibs is batting a paltry 0.375 on the season. Or, to put more specifically, Jibran Waqar has a worse batting average than Hashim Ghazi on the season. Wow. Yikes. Oolti. That is a cause for concern. Not a cause for concern though is how Michael Arlitt is stepping up for the Ayyubids. Mike had a perfect day on the field last Sunday which earned him player of the week honours. With news that Arlitt is not missing a single game this season, GM Umair Sheikh must love what his centre fielder is bringing to the table week-after-week. The Ayyubids have two home games this week on Birchwood 2 against power-heavy teams in the Sultans and the Nasrids. Look for the homerun differential to be an ally of the Kurds in these evening matchups against two of the better sides in the League.
Week 3 goes live in just over forty eight hours. See you at the Birch on Sunday.