[written by: Hamid Malik, Riyad Ramjaun, Taha Iqbal, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
Eight games into the season and there remains two distinct classes forming the League - the Mughals, Ayyubids, Ottomans and Nasrids sit comfortably in the top half, while the Sultans, Mamluks, Abbasids and Seljuqs make up what's left. It is looking more and more like the last two spots in the playoffs will come down to the wire - the question is who will be left on the sidelines and who will be parading into the playoffs in hopes of upsetting a favourite?
Continuing on with our team charity drives this Sunday, the Abbasids will be selling award-winning veal sandwiches from Kantene - yes, this sandwich was literally awarded the best veal sandwich in Ontario for 2019 by the Veal Farmers of Ontario. You can get two mini sandwiches and a drink for $12, all in an effort to raise funds for Muslim Welfare Centre.
Now, let's see what's on and poppin' in this week's rumours.
ABBASIDS (@ Ayyubids 2:00PM BW2 & @ Mughals 3:30PM BW1)
The Abbasids were riding high after their two legendary wins last week and came into this week believing that the curse had been lifted. The first game of the day saw the Lions drop a neck-in-neck affair against the Sultans. The big bats did what they could, as Ahmad Ammad, Sameer Rafique and Yousaf Chaudhry combined for 4 dingers and 10 RBIs in the game, but the rest of the team could not back it up. A bizarre umpiring decision to call the game despite there being ample time remaining did not help the cause either. The second game against the Nasrids came down to the last couple of innings but ultimately resulted in a loss for the Lions. The Abbasids, despite being markedly better than they looked in the first two weeks of the season, clearly have some further kinks to work out. Both games were close and could’ve gone either way and had some routine plays been handled appropriately, the results may have been different. Everyone on this team needs to hold themselves accountable and start playing with a sense of urgency or this season can and will go down as another dud for the Orangemen. Next week, the Abbasids take on the two best teams in the League in the Ayyubids and Mughals. Do they stand a chance against these well rounded teams? I guess we’ll find out Sunday.
AYYUBIDS (vs Abbasids 2:00PM BW2 & vs Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
The Ayyubids fell to the Ottomans last week but keep their second place spot in the standings. They were victorious against the Seljuqs in their later game holding them to 4 runs and scoring 9 themselves. It seems the men in black are starting to slow down a little; by slow down, we mean come back on earth after a remarkable start to the season. Hassan Zubair and Mike Arlitt are continuing their astronomical contributions but Jibran Waqar fell victim to a poor weekend at the plate again. Aqib Khokhar stepped up against the Seljuqs with a 4-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI performance in the leadoff spot. Amongst all the action, rumours have it that Umair ‘Flash’ Sheikh almost made an impossible catch as he bolted from first to home plate to make a play on a foul ball. Spectators reported they could only see a blur fizzing towards the mishit ball. The crowd also witnessed a spectacular line drive from Shoaib Gaya which was met with an even more spectacular catch from Tausif Hussain. So spectacular that Shoaib called it a fluke. What isn’t a fluke is the way this team has carried themselves this season and look to continue their spell against two teams below them in the Mamluks and Abbasids. Most viewers would bet 2-0 on the day for the Kurds.
MAMLUKS (@ Mughals 2:00PM BW1 & @ Ayyubids 3:30PM BW2)
Despite missing their GM Hassan Chaudhry and star pitcher Ibrahim Sardar, the Mamluks rallied together to split their games last week. Fill-in pitcher Umair Wasim benefited from his team giving him a strong lead to work with against the Seljuqs in Game 1 that led to a 12-8 win, while the boys in green fell one run short against the surging Ottomans in game 2. All in all, you really cannot complain about how the results went down, especially considering how previous weeks went without a true pitcher on the mound. Wasim did more than just pitch on Sunday though, hitting three homeruns on the weekend and showing that cricket swing is getting even more finetuned for softball with every passing week. What's even better to see is superstar Ismail Akhter finally showing shades of his old self. It appears that the monkey is finally off his back and he is ready to go back to his old ways after an impressive 3 homerun performance against the Ottomans. This team possesses some incredible and if they continue to get some stellar play from the middle-order guys like Imran Qureshi and Mohsin Zubair, they will be a tough out. The Mamluks face quite the test this week against the top two sides in the League in the Mughals and Ayyubids. Let's see if the positive momentum can result in them turning some more heads this weekend.
MUGHALS (vs Mamluks 2:00PM BW1 & vs Abbasids 3:30PM BW1)
Eight games into the season, and dare we say that the Mughals look like the team to beat? Due to a last-minute injury, the Mughals starting pitcher was forced to sit this game out, but in true Mughals form, the next man stepped up. Hamza Hussain, who has only pitched a few games and has yet to win a game when he has, locked down both the Nasrids and Sultans to guide his team to two wins. On the offensive side, although others have been tabbed as potential ROY candidates, Tamour “Big T” Sheikh continues his dominance both with the bat and the glove, as he hit two more homeruns this past week. Though Big T was a name floating on many GMs draft boards, credit to GM Owais Ansari for picking him up in the middle rounds of what seems like the deepest team in the League. This week, the Badshahs will have a rematch against the Abbasids and will take on the new look Mamluks. Although they mercied the Lions the last time they faced them, these Abbasids look drastically different this time around and will be hungry; the same can be said about the Mamluks who finally showed some life and welcome back some key players to the fold. A pair of wins this week would potentially clinch the playoffs for the Badshahs and then they can concentrate on the ultimate prize.
SULTANS (@ Nasrids 5:15PM BW2 & @ Ottomans 6:45PM BW1)
The Sultans circled last week’s matchup against the Abbasids as a must-win to have any hopes of making the playoffs, and they squeaked out a gutsy 2-run win over them; game 2 did not bode well in their favour as a defiant 19-run performance was overcome by the 22 the Mughals put up. GM Shamil Khadaroo will totally take a 1-1 weekend though when the loss comes in a game against the top team in the League where you put up an offensive performance that usually would lead in a win. The team’s identity remains a work-in-progress and with so many new faces to jell with, the concern lies in whether it will come together in time. You know what is coming together though? Faisal Khan and the resurgence. The vet is putting up unruly numbers this season, sitting third in the league in home runs and fourth in RBIs. The King has sat on the All-Star throne since year one of BSL, but if even semblance of this performance continues, he’ll all but be a certain lock to get back there. The Sultans face the Mamluks and Nasrids this week – the two teams that a spot above and a spot below them. If the Whites can go 2-0, they’ll be sitting pretty in the top half of the standings without a worry in the world.
NASRIDS (vs Sultans 5:15PM BW2 & @ Seljuqs 6:45PM BW2)
The Nasrids continue to tiptoe between elite and mediocrity after splitting a pair of games last week. The loss to the league leading Mughals by a single run that saw their impressive offense held to only nine runs (and no home runs) in the game, but found their stroke in game two with a 19-run performance in a victory against the Abbasids. There were some positives uncovered for GM Sir Nirvaan Latif as they prepare for week 5. First, holding the Mughals to only ten runs shows that they can limit offensive powerhouses with elite pitching, courtesy of Tanseer “Robocop” Khawaja, and impressive defense. Secondly, with so much focus being on rookie Safwan Khan and superstar Osman Buttar on the offensive end, it was great to see Hammad Afif smack two over the fence and display that power we've seen in year's past. People forget that Afif went yard six times last year, and having that sort of big bat in the bottom half of the lineup is an asset few other teams can match. The Nasrids have a gift from the scheduling gods (read: Commissioner Zahid) this week with a pair of games against two teams struggling beyond belief in the Sultans and Seljuqs. Let’s see if the Spaniards can continue their trend of feasting on the weak to propel up the standings.
SELJUQS (@ Ottomans 5:15PM BW1 & vs Nasrids 6:45PM BW2)
The freefall continues. The Seljuqs have now gone 0 for 6 in the last three weeks, and typically, you would say they are all but out of the playoffs. Fortunately for them, the Abbasids, Sultans and Mamluks continue to be stuck in neutral and the 2-6 Bulls just need one weekend to get back into the mix. This is a young team that always brings a ton of energy – where is that now? The best teams deal with adversity the same way they deal with success. The Seljuqs flat out do not look like they are having fun out there and though a lot of the fun comes from winning, this team performs best when everyone is on a high. They’ve been given lifeline after lifeline with teams above them stumbling, and they need to capitalize. All this team needs is a result going their way to get back in order and continue riding high. The good news is that All Star and cutie patootie Omer Dhaduk is back in the fold and ready to rip. The Seljuqs face two teams sitting smack dab in the middle of the pack this week in the Ottomans and the Nasrids. Both these opponents have been running hot-and-cold this season, and the Bulls will hope that they can capitalize with a pair of wins.
OTTOMANS (vs Seljuqs 5:15PM BW1 & vs Sultans 6:45PM BW1)
The Ottomans have been on a torrid run ever since their first week debacle. Now though, that humiliation seems to be a distant memory as the last three weeks have seen the Turks go 5-0-1. Their offence seems to have finally come alive as they put up league leading 21 XBH and almost doubled their season hit count this past week. The youngest Merchant, Rizvan, seems to have silenced all his critics as he leads the league in average at the halfway mark. Imran Merchant, Faheem Kotwal, AR and Kashif Irshad seem to have come out of their respective slump and put up strong performances this past Sunday. Abdullah Akhtar and Zia "Doc" Beg remain the Ottomans’ lynchpins as they look to continue their strong run. And we cannot leave out that GM Taha Iqbal continues to lead by example by putting up comparable numbers to his otherworldly season at the plate last year. The Ottomans are the only team to have beaten both the Mughals and Ayyubids, the two top ranked teams. The Ottomans face Seljuqs for the first time this season and will hope to inflict further agony on the downtrodden Bulls. The Turks will face Sultans in the nightcap who are also struggling to stay out of the relegation zone. Two wins this Sunday could see the Ottomans move in to top two. and (hopefully) shut the critics up for good.
There's less than forty eight hours to go before first pitch - let's get out there and play some ball.