Islamabad United are one of the biggest teams in the Pakistan Super League. This T20 league is in its infancy, but its status has been greatly raised by the excitement, the controversy and everything else that seems to have swarmed around it from the outset. And when it comes to excitement and controversy in the PSL, Islamabad United are usually at the source.
When the Pakistan Super League setup was revealed by the Pakistan Cricket Board, a host of millionaires and billionaires tried to get their hands on the biggest city teams. Everyone wanted Karachi and Lahore, and between them those two franchises cost more than $50 million.
Islamabad, on the other hand, were a bargain by comparison, as were Quetta. In fact, you could have bought both the Islamabad and Quetta franchises for the price of one Karachi franchise. But despite that, Islamabad United would quickly go on to prove their worth, showing that even though they were one of the cheapest franchises, they were also one of he best.
The franchise is owned by Leonine Global Sports, who describe their goal as “promoting sports throughout Asia”. Leonine is owned by Ali and Amna Naqvi, who paid $15 million to register the Islamabad United franchise in the name of their company.
Islamabad United had a poor start to their opening season. From the outset it looked like they were doomed to struggle, as they were beaten in their very first game by a rampant Quetta Gladiators. They followed this with another loss to Peshawar Zalmi and heads began to drop.
Things took a turn after that though and they finally began to perform as many expected them too. Although they were outclassed in their opening games, they found their feet and were a little more dominant against Karachi, before enjoying the same success against Lahore.
At the end of the season they had a 50% win rate and finished in third. Going into the knockout stages they were one of the outsiders, with many struggling to see beyond Quetta and Pesahwar. But they defied the odds. They beat Karachi, they beat Peshawar and they beat Quetta, completing a trio of outstanding victories that few saw coming and that served to create an action-packed finale to the first PSL season.
The red, orange and brown of Islamabad United featured prominently throughout the opening season of the PSL. They have their own “rockstar” in Ali Zafar, who sings their theme song Chakka Choka (see below), and their brand ambassador is Farad Khan. Khan has been called “Pakistan’s biggest star”, so this was quite an acquisition for the franchise. It is one hat has helped to further raise their status throughout Asia.
As with all PSL franchises, there are many different ambassadors, sponsors and more working behind the scenes at Islamabad United. Over the years their sponsors have included PTV Sports, who work as their media partner and are also contracted to the Quetta Gladiator in a similar role; and WWF Pakistan.
As the champions of the first season of the Pakistan Super League, Islamabad United gave themselves a lot to live up to for the following season. However, few predicted they would do so well during that season, so everything they did for that moment on surely felt like a bonus to the owners, manager and players of the club.
Their win rate during that season was a little over 60%, less the Quetta Gladiators, who they beat in the final—much to the surprise of many Pakistan cricket fans.
Islamabad United were the first to bring an overseas player to the league when they signed Aussie international Shane Watson. In his mid-thirties, it’s fair to say that Watson’s best days were behind him. However, he was still playing for his national team at the time and his experience was greatly appreciated by Islamabad United.
Watson played during one of the golden ages of Australian cricket and was a great acquisition for the club, remaining in the squad even at the outset of the second season. Other overseas players have included the English wicket-keepers Sam Billings and Ben Duckett, the Aussie Brad Haddin and Dwayne Smith, who hails from the West Indies.
One of their biggest local players is Sharjeel Khan. The Pakistan batsman had a brilliant opening season and was instrumental in helping them to lift the trophy. One of his best performances came against Peshawar, when he hit 117 off just 62 balls. This play was fairly consistent throughout the season, as he recorded 300 runs over the course of 12 innings.
However, at the outset of the second PSL season Khan was suspended during an investigation into spot-fixing by the PCB. His teammate Khalid Latif was also suspended under the same investigation, creating problems for Islamabad United that will surely be felt for many years to come, even if those allegations soon fade away.