The rain marred t20 season left a lot of teams unfulfilled and short on competitive match practice. Let’s hope the rains have had their fill and will now leave the weekends alone for the longer version, which everyone looks forward to. This is the version where batsmen get to plan their innings, and bowlers get to apply their skill and the captains have greater opportunity to strategize. The other benefit of this format is that, generally, everyone gets to bat and all the bowlers get to bowl. This allows everyone the satisfaction that they played a role in the game and got to do what they wanted. I believe these are the reasons why the longer version is still more popular amongst players.

This year we will witness new teams emerge and take their place amongst the power teams in PD. The league is constantly transforming itself and the rate of change is accelerating. The level of competition in PD keeps going up. With several teams bolstering their rosters this will be the most competitive year PD has witnessed where 10 of the 12 team have the ability to make the playoffs. Every game is going to be hard fought and there are no easy games on anybody’s schedule and in the end it just might come to tie breakers for the 6th playoff spot. Two teams that will make PD even tougher and will have significant impact are Potomac and Jamaica. Let’s start with Jamaica. After experiencing growing pains last year, the team has made several fundamental changes this year. The management has changed hands, and Sheldon Ellis has taken a role. You can think of Jamaica as the new Kensington. Sheldon will look to get this team to perform at the level that his stellar Kensington teams performed. And he certainly has brought in the personnel for it. Juicy has returned along with several new additions, including the star performer from Kensington last year Marvin Darlington, and the team is determined to have significant impact on PD. I fully expect that with the strength of the players that will be coming in, this team will be a strong playoff contender.

Potomac will be all the rage in PD this year. Rajit Passey has done a fantastic job assembling a high quality team that is well balanced. In addition to Sunny Sohal and Ravi Inder another first class player, Sharad Lumba, from India has also joined the team to give significant batting power up top.  And the addition of Aniruddh provides further batting depth. The team has bolstered the bowling department too with the addition of Jesse Singh. All their other players have gained significant experience playing along these high caliber players, are highly skilled, and know their role very well. To me, Potomac is the glamor team of 2016, the one that will be most keenly followed, and easily a contender for the playoff spot and beyond.

Tigers will also be right up there. This team has the best spin bowling attack in the league and their top order batting is also very strong. The addition of a Pakistan International player will help take the team to a higher level. Derick Naraine has already had an impact in the t20 and with Akeem Dodson and other out of town impact players joining the party, Tigers will be a team to recon with. Both Dawood and Imran are on a mission this year where anything less than a Championship will be considered a failure. Their goal is to win both the 40 over and the t20 championships. Under Junaid’s leadership, the team will play an even more aggressive brand of cricket.

Shoaib Ahmed of Titans, is trying to keep a low profile this year. But deep inside, this is the year he is going to put every effort in winning that elusive championship. He has greatly strengthened his team by adding Cheruka and Anees and will have the likes of Karan Ganesh, Agha Sabir, and Nauman Ullah. The team has always been a consistent performer in the regular season, but this year the goal is to succeed in the playoffs. The pieces of the puzzle are there, the test will come during playoff time.

Virginia is a very proud team, and believes that the Championship trophy belongs in their house. The team performed very well last year in this format and I expect nothing different this year. The team lost to the eventual champions and there is no reason to believe that it will lower its expectations and performance standards. Both Guru and Shahzad are excellent leaders and know what they need to do to win the championship. Addition of Waleed Aslam will further bolster this team. Hector is a match winner and the experience of Naseer Islam and Zaheer Abassi makes this a formidable team. The addition of former Pakistan international player Najaf Shah will give this team significant muscle.  I expect Virginia to add a few more players to this already strong set of players and is certain to be a force to reckon with. All the Virginia games are sure to draw significant interest and the game between Virginia and Tigers and Virginia and Potomac will be amongst the most anticipated and followed games this season. I consider Virginia a strong contender for the WCL Championship.

Dulles had a great year last year and earned the #2 overall seed. This is a young and athletic team with the best fielding in PD. Every player gives great effort and provides great support to the bowlers, which is the team’s strength. Top order batting for the team is solid and the team has just included a quality middle order batsman from ICC to provide depth to the middle order as well. The team has an excellent fighting spirit and more often than not, they win the 50-50 games, which is a sign of a good and tough team. The team has added very good players this off-season and this will help their cause greatly. The team is a definite contender for a playoff spot and is well positioned for a run in the playoffs.

Boyds had an excellent year last year and finished as league runners up. The team has gone through some changes, and has lost and added a few players. The team did not have a great t20 season, but their key performers did perform well. If they continue to do so in the longer version, the team will be in the mix for a playoff spot. I believe there are several teams that will be fighting for that elusive 6th playoff spot and Boyds will be one of them. The team has low margin for error, and it will need to play consistent cricket to make the playoffs. The talent is there.

Cosmos is a good 40 over team and were a little unlucky to have missed the playoffs last year. Ravi Teja had a phenomenal year and will need to repeat that performance to be in contention in a very tough PD. Sarav, Pradeep, Ashwin, Sachin, Hiten, Gopi, Sandeep and others are quality batsmen to provide support to Ravi. On the bowling front, Sudhir is bowling very well and the team has so many all-rounders that provide great balance to the team. This team too will be contending for the playoff spot and will need to make sure to win the games that it should. Cosmos will surely remember the one game vs Vikings last year that it should not have lost that cost them the playoff spot. If it avoids such upsets, it has every chance to make the playoffs.

Nitro has always been an enigma for me. One day it beats top teams with ease, and then follows it up with a loss to teams it should beat. The team has lacked consistency and this has prevented it from being one of the elite teams. The strength of this team is bowling, which keeps it in most games. If the batting can be strengthened then the team will have every chance at making the playoffs. But for now, I see Nitro on the outside looking in.

AFCA is one team that has been greatly affected by player departure. Losing Anees and Dilawar will certainly hurt the balance as both were high performers for the team. Currently, the middle order looks weak and on the days the top 4 (Jawad Afzal, Mirza Baig, Hamid Munir and Waqas Naeem)  do not perform, the team will struggle. But when the top order does perform or gets good support from Shahid Munir in the middle order, the team puts up good scores and then has the ability to defend. Due to the inconsistency of play, the team cannot be looked as a pre-season favorite to make the playoffs.

Return of the 22yards to PD will make the Division stronger. This is a good team that fights hard. Rikin’s goal is to not only make the playoffs but also go deep in it. His plan is that for key games he will bring in outside help to bolster his team. The team has excellent hitting ability in the likes of Rahul, James, Gurnish, Sam, Rikin and also has the batsmen who can play long innings in Tanmay, Rocy, Shahid. The team bats deep but sometimes plays too aggressively, which leads to unfavorable results. Rikin’s plan of having a couple of high caliber outside players will certainly make this a very tough team to beat and favorites to make the playoffs with a good seeding.

Zolon has gone through a massive transformation and looks quite different from last year’s team. Many of the players, who were not part of the team last year due to injury, availability, or playing for other teams, have returned. These include: Vivek Patel, Kaushal Raman, Julius, Shaan Mehta. The team has also added Tallal Zia, Ammar Khan and Tanzir Ahmed. The team is hoping that all these players gel together and the team performs well. Zolon has a good mix of experienced players but will certainly have nowhere near the firepower it did last year. The team will need to fight hard for a playoff spot as every team wants to beat them and bring their best team and effort to the ground. Zolon will certainly have its work cut out but there is a lot of pride in this team and will work hard to make the playoffs.

Playoff Team:

(Favorites to qualify): Jamaica, Potomac, Tigers, Titans, Virginia, Zolon.

(Competing for a spot and will need to beat the majority of the teams in this group and at least one team from the favorites group to qualify for the post season): 22-yards, Boyds, Cosmos, Dulles.

(On the outside looking in): AFCA, Nitro.

As in the years past, here are the picks from some others who play in our league:

Rikin Parikh (22yards): 22yards, Potomac, Tigers, Titans, Virginia, Zolon

Shahid Munir (AFCA): 22yards, AFCA, Titans, Tigers, Virginia, Zolon

Kartik Radhakrishnan (Dulles): Boyds, Dulles, Potomac, Tigers, Virginia, Zolon

Imran Awan (Tigers): Dulles, Potomac, Tigers, Titans, Virginia, Zolon

Bobby Peddireddy (Falcons): Jamaica, Potomac, Tigers, Titans, Virginia, Zolon

Ahsan Chaudhary (ICC): Cosmos, Dulles, Tigers, Titans, Virginia, Zolon


 

1 Comment

  1. Kartik says:

    Good analysis and attention to details Anurag bhai. Thanks for keeping us posted about player movements within WCL. I esp. liked the consistent use of alphabetical order for the playoff team pics :)

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