[written by: Hamid Malik, Hassan Chaudhary, Riyad Ramjaun, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
With the first trimester of the season now in the books, we...really have no idea where anyone stands? The League dropped their first midseason podcast of the year reviewing the season thus far, and the growing sentiment remains to be that it is too early to jump to conclusions because there is a lot of softball still to play. Season 6 stands as the lengthiest BSL season to date (18 games total), and with more games remaining than ever before, it's probably best that we let the games decide who's hot and who's not (and to tell 'em who rocks and who sells out in stores). That makes this week's matchup all the more intriguing, as we commence four straight weeks of softball before our next long-weekend break in August.
Let's see what the rumour mill is churning out heading into this Sunday.
MAMLUKS (vs. Seljuqs 2:00PM BW1 & @ Ottomans 3:30PM BW2)
After the first 2 weeks of the BSL season, the Mamluks were winless. Injuries had caused certain instrumental players to bow out and the team was in a slump that did not seem to have an end in sight. That's when the team's braintrust orchestrated a momentous, but fair, trade in which they got a full-time pitcher in Ibrahim Sardar, two strong outfielders in Ismail Akhter and Mohsin Zubair and a man set on re-writing his entry in the BSL almanac in Saoud Ramjaun. While it was a risk, a change was undoubtedly needed. The team lined up on Week 3 finally with some semblance of an identity after filling holes with quick solutions every week. The results proved merit to the trade with the Mamluks going undefeated by tying a heavily contested game against the Sultans and besting the high-powered offence of the Nasrids. Now with some momentum, the Mamluks will be looking to move on up. Although, in typical Mamluks fashion, their lineup remains unpredictable as rumors have it that their ambitious GM Hassan Chaudhry is on vacation while their newly added pitcher, Ibrahim, is also away. Here’s to hoping the quick plugging of holes can keep the ship afloat until they are back to full strength.
SELJUQS (@ Mamluks 2:00PM BW1 & vs. Ayyubids 3:30PM BW1)
The Seljuqs were riding high to start the season and now find themselves as low as can be. Two come-from-behind victories in week 1 showed that the demons that plagued this team last year, specifically not being able to dig themselves out of a hole, had been exorcised. However, six games in, they may be a little too good at digging themselves out of holes because they seem to find themselves in one every game. Though it doesn’t help that the team has played five of six games on unforgiving Birchwood 2, the issue remains the same: the Bulls cannot afford to start games from behind any longer. Chasing a lead adds further pressure, and though the team is full of guys capable of handling that pressure, nobody is able to do it every week. That sort of pressure generates stress-induced at-bats, errors in the field and having to force the game versus letting it come to you. This week’s first trimester podcast summed it up best – if this team had a few bounces go their way, you would be looking at a 4-2 team with not a worry in the world. The Seljuqs have been their worst enemy by shooting themselves in the foot to start games, and if it keeps going that way, we may see the ‘juqs sitting on the sidelines come September (again). Though it may be too early to label any game a “must win”, the matchup against the Mamluks is as close to that as it comes. The Seljuqs then have the pleasure of facing the league leading Ayyubids in game two. And to make matters worse, the boys in red will be shorthanded, with BSL heartthrob Omer Dhaduk unavailable this Sunday. Management remains confident in the team ability to go 2-0 over the weekend given the depth of the squad though – let’s see if they are up to the task.
OTTOMANS (vs. Ayyubids 2:00PM BW2 & vs. Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
The Ottomans are currently ranked fourth in the league as they have 3 wins in 6 games. Not a bad start but we all know they’d love to have that game back against the Abbasids, where they put up a mere three runs on 8 hits to a team that hadn’t won a game since 2017. The only time your defence is not lauded for holding an opponent to four runs in softball is when you manage to score three. It’s okay though – sometimes things just don’t go your way and other times they do. The following game, the Ottomans woke up and stole a game from the Mughals as rookie sensation Abdullah Akhtar saved the game with an incredible diving grab in centre. The play of Rameez Siddiqi and Abdullah has been key to the Ottomans early success and has helped them stay afloat in the standings; it’s time for the rest of the boys to pick it up if they want to be recognized as one of the better teams. Most teams are starting to figure out their chemistry and move up the ranks, so if the Ottomans bats don’t heat up soon, they could drop in the standings – the hungry Abbasids only trail them by a point. GM Taha Iqbal has had a great start to the season, and it’s up to him to fire up his squad and get more production from his men. The Turks men will have their work cut out for them this Sunday as they go up against the best team in the league, Ayyubids and the back-from-the-dead Mamluks. The Royal Blues have the potential to be one of the top teams this year but it will require hard work and consistency. If everyone can collectively step their game up, the Ottomans are a scary bunch.
AYYUBIDS (@ Ottomans 2:00PM BW2 & @ Seljuqs 3:30PM BW1)
The Ayyubids keep on rolling with 3 more points last game week that led them to atop the standings. What’s most to be noted is that Jibran Waqar is back…in black. Four homeruns on the day to go with 10 RBIs; now the squad is firing on all cylinders. If the Ayyubids are able to preserve the play of multiple guys having career years, we might see records being broken in BSL year 6. For a team whose logo is a brother with a shield, these guys are smacking it, Captain America style, and have scored a league best 86 runs. The most dangerous stat about them is their extra base hit tally which is currently at 33. The 2B stat filter is dominated by the Ayyubids repping the top 7 spots. Shoaib Gaya was seen using the filter to make his name appear on the first page (not true…maybe). Although they have been the best offensively, their defense is not too bad either, but perhaps that is their focus going into this week. They play a set of teams sitting in the middle of the standings this week that could prove to be a handful. If the Ayyubids still have some of that [redacted] they used in previous weeks, they will have the advantage. The career years must continue!
SULTANS (vs Abbasids 5:15PM BW2 & vs Mughals 6:45PM BW2)
Oh, the Sultans…can ANYONE understand this team? On paper, they should be destroying the league given their big bats, the play of their rookies and the resurgence of some vets, yet the Stallions can’t seem to find their groove. Their four rookies (Khuram Channa, Shawn Narine, Owais Noori & Basil Jeelany) are hitting a combined .423 while contributing in all facets of the game, while their 6th round pick has seen a resurgence like never before seen, as Faisal “King” Khan has exploded for 6 homeruns and 15 RBIs in 6 games this season. Khan has attributed his success this year to having an omelet before each game (although we suspect he was having that omelet all other seasons anyways). GM Shamil Khadaroo has also been in a slump and seems to be over thinking his play, both offensively and defensively. All this really means is that the Sultans are right on track to repeat as champions. Last year at this time, they had a record of 2-6 and ended up winning the whole thing, so it’s only a matter of time until Sham and his crew turn things around. Week 4 will see the men in white have a rematch against the Mughals (a team they tied last time around) and a revamped Abbasids team who are hungry to build on their success last week. Usually a team would say anything less than 2 wins would be unacceptable, however, by losing the 2 games this coming week, the Sultans will be exactly where they were a year ago and right on track to repeat as champions.
ABBASIDS (@ Sultans 5:15PM BW2 & vs Nasrids 6:45PM BW1)
After finding themselves winless in the first two weeks (or the past 22 months, if you really want to go there), the Abbasids had enough of the losing culture and worked out a blockbuster deal with the only other team winless thus far in the season, the Mamluks. I guess that was all it took to jump start the Orangemen as the boys came out surprising everyone with a pair of Ws in week 3. That’s right, the Abbasids actually won not just 1, but 2 games in a row, and in doing so, moved out of the basement and into fifth place. Ahmad Ammad had a career best 5 walks on the day while the rest of the new guys, Hamid Malik, Yousaf Chaudhry and Zayd Ramjaun batted a combined .500 and held it down on defense. Not bad huh? However, lost in the charm of the new acquisitions was the performance of Mo Kala and Atif Akhtar, who provided some crucial hits on the weekend that were key to the side notching up the pair of victories. It looks like like the Abbasids are starting to turn it around, and the shakeup has led to the exact sort of result GM Bilal Javed was hoping for. Next up in the cross hairs are the Sultans, where we will finally get to see the much anticipated Malik vs. Malik showdown. Both brothers have had a slow start to the season and are looking to have a breakout game sooner rather than later. Could this be the week? Let the best Malik win. The Lions follow up the Malik bowl with a date against the impressive Nasrids. Were the last two wins just a result of the new honeymoon phase or are these guys now for real? Stay tuned.
MUGHALS (vs Nasrids 5:15PM BW1 & @ Sultans 6:45PM BW2)
The Badshahs return from the break looking to avenge their first loss of the season with a full squad in two this coming Sunday. With pitcher Riyad Ramjaun struggling in week 3 (10 walks against the Seljuqs!!!), it was the defense and some timely hitting that prevailed and got them the win. They would not be so lucky in game 2 against the Ottomans, losing a tightly contested affair by three runs after allowing four errors in the field. With the return of Shaheen Limbada, Saad G & Asad Moten, the Mughals will look to erase those errors and right the ship to take both games this week. Week 4 will have the Mughals play the Sultans in a rematch of the season opener in which the teams tied. The second game of the day will pit the Mughals against the Nasrids, a team that they have not yet faced this season but have proven to be dangerous as always. Rumour has it that a few Mughals spent the week off in Disneyland, and the team is hoping that the much-needed time off will settle everyone down. The goal for the Badshahs remain the same as always; regular season success is nice but gearing up for a deep playoff run is the main goal with the ultimate prize being the championship. #TAKEFROMTHEMEVERYTHING #GIVETHEMNOTHING
NASRIDS (@ Mughals 5:15PM BW1 & @ Abbasids 6:45PM BW1)
Polar Opposites. Night & Day. Black & White. Take your pick on which term best describes the Spaniards this season. Week 3 saw the Nasrids go winless with 33 hits total on the day. The only issue with that was 82% of their hits came in in their first game. Against the Ayyubids, the Nasrids saw everyone hit, including 3 big homeruns, while in the second half of the doubleheader, 6 of the boys in grey went hitless. This type of inconsistency has to be driving GM “Sir” Nirvaan Latif mad; maybe it was the heat? Maybe it was the food waiting? Or maybe it’s the lack of “ooohhhhh yeaaaa ooohhhhh yeaaaa ooohhhhh yeaaaas” in game 2 by the GM? Either way, the Nasrids are still one of the top teams in the league and sit in third place. The Nasrids always seem to know who to draft when it comes to rookies, as it looks like they have found a gem in ROY candidate (and dare we say sleeper MVP candidate) Safwan Khan. Safwan has led the league in batting average from the get-go and has continued his onslaught of the league, batting a league leading .750 thus far. Unfortunately for the Nasrids, their bottom of the lineup needs to step up in a big way. As is the case in all championship teams of the past, you will only go as far as your bottom takes you. Although talented, some of the Spaniards need to provide more consistency for this team to challenge for a championship. This week, the Nasrids will face an always dangerous Mughals team followed by an equally dangerous Abbasids team (this writer will admit, he never thought Abbasids & dangerous would be written in the same sentence). Take both these teams lightly, and the Nasrids will fall back to the middle of the pack; 2 wins though could vault this team back to the top. Only time will tell.
Finally, the boys of brotherhood are back on Birchwood this balmy Sunday - play ball.