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Islamabad United's journey in HBL PSL marked by a thrilling brand of cricket

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  • The official nomenclature of the tournament is HBL PSL. Media houses are requested to use correct event nomenclature in texts, headlines and bulletins

Lahore, 13 February 2024: Islamabad United, renowned for its distinctive style in the HBL PSL, boast an unparalleled blend of strategies and data-driven methods while showcasing a thrilling brand of cricket. Owned by Ali Naqvi and Amna Naqvi, the team consistently selects some of the most skilled players in the T20 cricketing arena.

“HBL PSL has been an amazing journey. When it started, we knew it would be big but didn’t know it would have such a huge impact. We were playing our first season in the UAE when we won and it was when we landed in Pakistan that we truly realised how big the league had become and how great an achievement it was to win the inaugural season,” said Rehan-ul-Haq, Islamabad United’s General Manager.

“When the league came to Pakistan, it was already huge. I remember playing the 2018 final in Karachi. A packed house, an atmosphere to savour. It has only gotten bigger & better. When we played our first home game in Rawalpindi, chants of ‘Ronchi-Ronchi’ were so loud that we felt it in our dugout. Nothing compares to the passion of Pakistan fans in stadiums,” added Rehan.

Islamabad United’s adeptness in identifying young talent and its commitment to player development and attentive support towards player well-being make the franchise stand out.

Islamabad United was the first franchise to appoint former emerging players as captains; namely, Rumman Raees and Shadab Khan. Moreover, the team set a commendable precedent by providing comprehensive care for its players, as evidenced by their support for Rumman during his injury recovery.

Reflecting on this support, Rumman said: “During my injury, Islamabad United appointed me as a bowling consultant and facilitated my rehabilitation with their physiotherapist. I have forged a strong bond with Islamabad United as a result.”

The franchise's keen support for talent has resulted in the rise of players like Shadab, Rumman, Asif Ali, and Mohammad Wasim Jnr, who have not only made their mark in United's lineup but also represented Pakistan.

United has been committed towards grooming local talent since the first edition of the League. Babar Azam was picked up by Islamabad United in 2016 and went on to make his T20I debut for Pakistan later in the same year, achieving great success in his career. In addition, players like Kamran Ghulam – a domestic powerhouse – and Rohail Nazir – a prodigal wicketkeeper batter – were also selected and developed by the franchise. The appointments of Dean Jones as coach and Misbah-ul-Haq as captain proved pivotal towards this player development.

Despite a challenging start in the first edition of HBL PSL – losing four out of six group stage matches –United's management retained faith in their players. Against the odds, they rebounded by winning five consecutive matches and securing the title. Memorable performances from key players like Mohammad Sami, Brad Haddin, Sharjeel Khan, Dwayne Smith, and Rumman defined their triumphant journey.

Islamabad United excelled again in HBL PSL 2018 – after losing in the play-offs of the 2017 edition – with Luke Ronchi's impactful batting setting a new standard. Asif’s crucial sixes against Peshawar Zalmi’s Hasan Ali in the final secured Islamabad their second title, making them the first team to achieve this feat. Despite a reputation for restrained celebrations, the city's residents turned out in large numbers to celebrate the IU Victory Parade.

Since 2019, Islamabad United has focused on bolstering their batting line-up, at times at the expense of bowling resources, consequently creating squad imbalance. Learning from their mistakes, the HBL PSL 9 draft marked a shift to a calculated, albeit still aggressive approach.

United’s top-order is loaded with potent batters like Alex Hales, Jordan Cox, and Colin Munro. The middle-order features dynamic hitters like Azam Khan, Shadab, Imad Wasim and Qasim Akram. In the pace bowling department, Naseem Shah – along with his younger brothers Hunain Shah and Ubaid Shah – join seasoned names like Tymal Mills and Rumman, adding a unique dimension to the side. Imad, Shadab, Qasim and Agha Salman provide a diverse spin department. Shamyl Hussain, an aggressive top-order batter from Pakistan U19, and Shahab Khan, the leading wicket-taker in National T20, further enhance the team's strength.

This year, the franchise also introduced a program called “Women Empowerment Champions” and renewed their association with Diana Baig, Aliya Riaz and Bismah Maroof.

“We are thrilled to welcome Bismah Maroof, Aliya Riaz, and Diana Baig to Islamabad United. Their prowess on the cricket field is matched only by their dedication to promoting women’s empowerment. This collaboration underscores our commitment to fostering an environment where talent knows no gender boundaries,” highlighted Amna.