So first and foremost, welcome back! It’s been a long time since we’ve had a season and with the way that COVID was going it was hard to tell if we were going to have one at all. However, by the grace of the Almighty, we’re set to start 2021. We’re a little bit more rushed than we’d like to be, but all things point to us starting our first games next Sunday.
But first, let’s see how each team did and let’s give you a potential preseason rank of where we think they’ll all finish.
Starting with 6th place.
Okay – so none of these teams made it easy to pick who would finish where (truthfully speaking there’s a lot of parity), but someone had to finish in last. With their assistant captain selection of Aadil Jaffer, and their first round pick of Miqdad Jaffer – it only makes sense that it’s the Wolves. Both players are a reach. Aadil while accomplished in his own right should not have been picked before any of the other assistants, and while our returning commissioner is good in his own right, he’s a shell of his former self – word is we can expect a batting average closer to what happened in the 2020 tournaments he played in (1 for 20 😐).
Meanwhile, this roster is gamble after gamble – will Irfahn Khimji play? Is Aqil Najafi even available? Who even is Zain Tharia – we heard he can play squash but will that translate to anything good on the softball field? However, the thing this team has going for it is championship pedigree. Captain Imran Virji knows how to win – let’s see if he can do it with a completely different group than we’re used to seeing wearing the Wolves colours.
Which takes us to 5th place
I will say that I think this captain core is second to none. The Zia brothers will be a force to be reckoned with, that much is sure. However, 4 of their last 5 rounds are players that are going to need a little bit of practice on the bats. They took a few flyers on unknown players – notably Indi Campbell, best friend of the captain – this is a pure wildcard as nobody knows what to expect. Arif Jaffer – who we’re told will bring some philosophy to this team, and Shabbar Dewji who is getting his first chance to play in a full time capacity. We’ll see how the regular reps of a shortened season will translate into development for the playoffs.
Now the other part of this roster, we can’t really say much – Hisham Ali is an all around talent, and comes with a medical degree to help cure whatever ails this team. Shane Worthington and Ray Noormohamed bring with them power off the bat that will surprise a lot of teams and the Hussain Habib, Hussein Champsi combination will make for a formidable outfield presence. This team waited until round 7 to grab their pitcher – Azad Najfi, and he could prove to be a steal of a pick if he can get on a streak. At this point though we’re splitting hairs.
Now on to 4th place
Look, I’m as surprised as anyone that the Owls are here. Draft night showed up, and captain Minhal Jaffer called an audible and told Mikael Ratansi that he was on his own to draft the team. He’s lucky he chose Mikky for the job because never has another captain been so creative with their use of timeouts and google searches. When in doubt, go with speed, athleticism, and youth. This team did well for themselves, there aren’t many weaknesses in this roster to exploit. They have a few players that are 1/1A or 2nd best at their position in Minhal, Mikael, and Maysum – and then they have a group of guys that will just get along and play hard. Bobby, Tan, and Mehdi-Hassan will likely end up in the outfield with Maysum and all bring a streaky bat to the mix.
We don’t know what Irfaan Jaffer’s health looks like but he’s a solid glove at 1B and his bat has been getting better and better each year. Danial Ali and Ali Kanani both got some time in 2019 with the Bucks, and had respectable first year campaigns. We’ll see how the off-season(s) have treated their development. Arif Gulamhusein makes his return to JMS and we’re excited to see how he can keep the mood light for this squad. Then finally the unknowns – Talib Shivraj, no idea – without a combine this year we’re working off of just rumours and we have none to work with for Talib. Muhammad Ali meanwhile pitched during Al-Wahda and got a taste for the sport then that carried him over to the Salaam Cup, so he’s gotten a feel for the game, we’ll see how it translates in a new environment. The biggest thing going against this team is the monicker of the Owls – they’ve never been successful, and I mean ever. Will 2021 be the year for change?
Now the top 3
So newcomer Sasha Al-Joundi is no joke, he’s a player through and through, and will definitely raise the bar for talent in this league. Maybe his own overconfidence got the better of him when he went out to pick his assistant captain – Abbasali Kermalli. I mean no knock to AK, he’s been putting in work and can hit the ball a ton, but you can do better with your number 2. That aside, this team drafted with a lot of…wisdom. They went out and got Mahmood Kara as their shortstop and Mahmood is a force, but he hasn’t played Shortstop since 2016 with the Tigers. Not sure how this is going to translate, but time will tell. There’s a lot of friends on this team, so we think the chemistry will be high to start – Altaf, Arif Hirji, and Jaffer Kermalli are all great team guys and will fit into any system. Salim Chagani and Muzzamil Jaffer are basically the same player – good outfielder, streaky bat, potential power.
This team took a newcomer in Azam Khan – and while we know less than nothing about him, we’ve started to hear some talk that this could have been a great pickup. This can also be said of Tahir Khorasanee who I think most team’s just forgot about, expect him to be very good. However, in order to make sure that this team dropped its average age, they went out and grabbed Mohammed Walli and Ali Walji – while Biggs shows nothing but heart, we don’t know much about what Ali Walji will bring to the table, he’s played with us once upon a time in Ramadhan, but it’s been a long time since those days.
Only two left
We know that our IG live announcers were swooning over this team, but they’re unfortunately not going to be our pick for who finishes first. Captain Ali-Reza Merali has proven over the years that he knows how to draft a team. His assistant captain Ali Raza Nasser has had similar success, so it’s serendipitous that these two get paired together. They take a pair of Abbas’s with their first picks Allidina who gives you a great pitcher and an even better bat, and Fazal who gives you athleticism and the legs to turn a double into a home run. Hatim Bootwala who showed up well in the exhibition games in 2020 will surprise a lot of people. A pair of Panjus in Hassanain and Hasan – where one gives you power, calm, and a solid glove at 3B, and the other gives you height? Then somehow Daanish Jaffer gets overlooked every single year, maybe it’s just his quiet demeanour but check out his batting averages over the years, he is consistently good and they’re all line drives.
Minaz Noormohamed, Abbas Mohamedali, and Munir Nasser shore up their C, 1B, 2B positions and each of them is capable of getting streaky on the bats, with the added bonus of Min being a lefty. Which leads us to MoMo who is clearly ready to sprint into action this year. He’s got his football spikes ready, and we think he might make an even bigger impression in 2021.
But as good as this team looks, there is 1 team that is better
This team starts out in our #1 spot. Captain Ali Manek did well for himself, he probably let his assistant captain Imran Nasser drive but this big 3 is scary. What does the defence do when faced with Umair Ali and the two captains in the batting lineup. It’s hard to imagine a situation where that doesn’t turn into 3 runs. They pick up two great pitchers in Hussein Allidina and Riaz Champsi that double as outfielders with great gloves. They pick up Shane Nasser who has the power to put it out at any field, and the hits keep coming. Sarfaraz Karmali, Nabeel Naqvi bring utility players that can flexibly move around the diamond, and even a late grab of Azmatali Mehrali gives them a 3rd pitcher in case Hussein and Riaz are needed in the outfield.
Now they’re not without some unknowns, Shaan Shamji played as a reserve with the Lions in 2019, showed that he’s the fastest player in the league, but hasn’t really had a chance for some consistent play. Taleb Zaidi we’re not sure what to expect, and all we know from Shanu Khimji is that he plays volleyball, so he’s probably an athlete – unless he played with Imran Nasser, then maybe he’s one of those players that knows how to get out of the way really well?
Needless to say, this team will be scary to play against. So now while all the teams look good on paper – there’s a reason we play the games. We’re very excited you all joined us for another season of JMS, and look forward to see how the stories unfold on the field.
Good luck to everyone!