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Ifti-Mania or PSL-Mania?

Iftikhar Ahmed’s career has seen a resurgence of late, characterized by his explosive six-hitting ability and humorous social media presence. The nickname “Ifti Mania” caught on after his fifty against India in the 2022 T20 World Cup. He’s since embraced the name and had a couple of crazy PSL seasons, smacking sixes off pacers like it’s child’s play.

However, a recent dip in form, marked by struggles to close out matches for Pakistan, has sparked a contentious narrative suggesting that Iftikhar’s dominance may be limited to the PSL, labelling him a “PSL bully.” But is there any truth to this, or is it simply another emotionally charged narrative?


The now 33-year-old batter has been a familiar face in Pakistani cricket for quite some time. However, his recent transformation into a fearsome power hitter is a direct response to the team’s pressing need for someone to fill that crucial role.

Up until the 2020 season, he was averaging an unremarkable 13.5 runs per innings with a strike rate of 109.6. But come PSL 2021, he flipped a switch. Since then, his average has skyrocketed to 31.03 and his strike rate has jumped to 141.33. This remarkable transformation has not only revitalised Iftikhar’s career but has also provided Pakistan with a much-needed power-hitting option in the middle order.

But just like many of his Pakistani teammates lately, he hasn’t been able to bring that same PSL magic to the international stage. In T20Is since 2021, his strike rate is a respectable 127.55, but his average drops to 21.86.

There are a few reasons why he’s struggling to replicate his PSL heroics on the international stage. The stakes are obviously higher when you’re playing for your country, and the bowlers he faces in international cricket are generally a cut above those in the PSL.

But one reason that might not be obvious right away is his utilisation. In the PSL, his teams have figured out that he’s a finisher — someone who can come in during the final overs and absolutely clobber the ball. But for some reason, the Pakistani team management hasn’t quite grasped this yet.

Figuring out how to best use Iftikhar isn’t just about batting position, though. While he can definitely whack pace bowling to all corners of the ground, he struggles against spin. Since 2021, his strike rate against spin has been mostly under 120. So, part of using him effectively is protecting him from spin as much as possible. With guys like Usman Khan and Azam Khan in the middle order, who can absolutely dismantle spinners, it makes sense to strategically save Iftikhar for the quicks.

For Pakistan, Iftikhar seems to be at his best in overs 15–20, where he’s got a strike rate of 155.6 and an average of 19. But here’s the thing: he’s only faced 37% of his balls in this phase. This means he’s either being sent in too early or forced to come in early because of wickets falling.

It’s a different story in the PSL. His best phase is the same, but his strike rate jumps to a ridiculous 175.1 and his average climbs to 26.9. And here’s the kicker: he faces 46% of his balls in this phase. This tells you that his PSL teams are specifically saving him for this late-game onslaught, and it’s paying off big time.

Yes, the pressure of international cricket and facing world-class bowlers is a factor, no doubt. But the stark contrast in Iftikhar’s PSL and international performances suggests something else is at play.

It’s a tale of two Iftikhars: the PSL beast unleashed in the death overs, and the international batsman shackled by a role that doesn’t suit his strengths. The numbers don’t lie. The evidence points to a misalignment in how he’s being utilised, a failure to harness the full force of “Ifti Mania” when it matters most.

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