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Pakistan Super League team guide

08 February 2017

Islamabad United with Pakistan Super League

Islamabad United are the defending champions // Getty

The off-season moves and scheduling the final in Lahore set up a rivetting second season of Pakistan's premier T20 competition

Lahore Qalandars

After collecting the wooden spoon in the inaugural Pakistan Super League, the Qalanders have made a major overhaul for 2017 with 14 changes, the most by any team. They also have ditched Pakistan one-day skipper Azhar Ali and made former Black Caps leader and current Brisbane Heat skipper Brendon McCullum their on-field leader.

And even though they traded Chris Gayle to the Karachi Kings for Sohail Tanvir, they still have a formidable top order in McCullum, England's Jason Roy and South Africa's Cameron Delport. Roy, a replacement for the injured Dwayne Bravo, is coming into the tournament after a fine tour of India while Delport was the second only to Umar Akmal for run-scoring in PSL-1. With these three at the top, Pakistanis Azhar and Fakhar Zaman will struggle to get in the XI.

The Qalandars look short in middle order and in hindsight could regret sending Sohaib Maqsood to Peshawar Zalmi for Aamer Yamin.

Pakistan unearth ambidextrous fast bowler

The Qalanders were relying on Shaun Tait for their pace attack, but the Australia veteran has pulled out to be replaced by Sydney Thunder rising off-spinner Chris Green. Their spin bowling stocks already boast Yasir Shah, Sunil Narine and Zafar Gohar, and they added leg-spinner Usman Qadir, who hasn't played any domestic cricket in two years.

But the Qalandars will have a strong tail with the likes of Tanvir, Yamin, Gohar, Narine and Bilawal Bhatti in the side and might not miss fast bowlers much due to the slow, sluggish nature of the Dubai and Sharjah wickets.

Strength: Top order batting and power hitting

Weakness: Fast bowling

Irfan plucks seagull catch

Watch out for: The youngster who has been generating plenty of buzz is the 17-year-old left-arm pacer Ghulam Mudassir. He will also get his fair share of opportunities because an emerging player is mandatory in the XI.

Possible XI: 1. Brendon McCullum (c) 2. Jason Roy 3. Cameron Delport 4. Umar Akmal 5. Saif Badar 6. Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 7. Aamer Yamin 8. Sohail Tanvir 9. Sunil Narine 10. Yasir Shah 11. Ghulam Mudassir

Rest of the squad: James Franklin, Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Zafar Gohar, Bilawal Bhatti, Usman Qadir, Grant Elliott, Chris Green, Mohammad Irfan.

Karachi Kings

The Kings didn't have much to write home about except for the two wins against their rivals, the Lahore Qalandars, in the first PSL. It was due to those wins that they qualified for the play-offs ahead of Lahore. The captain Shoaib Malik struggled and stood down from the captaincy before the play-offs, with Ravi Bopara taking over.

Another side to undergo a major overhaul, they have brought in 12 new players, topped by the addition of Chris Gayle in a trade with the Qalandars who received Sohail Tanvir.

Any team featuring Gayle is a must-watch and having played just one league in the past six months he will be coming in the tournament fit and fresh.

Karachi also traded for Babar Azam from Islamabad United, and he could well be Gayle's opening partner. Shahzaib Hasan is another explosive batsman who could partner Gayle. But having too many top order batsmen – there is also Khurram Manzoor – might also be a conundrum that they need to sort.

This season the Kings will be captained by Sri Lankan veteran Kumar Sangakkara, who couldn't get a game with the Hobart Hurricanes, who will no doubt be buoyed playing alongside close friend and compatriot Mahela Jayawardena.

Kieron Pollard, the most experienced player in T20 history, was their first buy in the second draft and will come handy with his power hitting in the death overs.

Amir takes hat-trick in Pakistan Super League

Mohammad Amir, arguably Pakistan's best fast bowler in limited-overs cricket, is also with Karachi. So is Imad Wasim, who didn't do much last season but since has delivered some fine performances for Pakistan.

All of their overseas players will be with the team throughout the tournament in the UAE and Karachi certainly have the potential to travel to Lahore for the final. 

Strength: Experience – the combined experience of Gayle, Sangakkara, Malik, Bopara and Pollard is 1342 Twenty20s. 

Weakness: There isn't any significant weakness but Sangakkara's form with the bat might be a little concern. He scored just 68 runs at 17.00 in five innings for Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL.

Watch out for: Chris Gayle. The PSL is the only league in which he does not have a T20 hundred…

Possible XI: 1. Chris Gayle 2. Babar Azam 3. Kumar Sangakkara (c, wk) 4. Shoaib Malik 5. Ravi Bopara 6. Kieron Pollard 7. Imad Wasim 8. Mohammad Aamir 9. Sohail Khan 10. Rahat Ali 11. Abrar Ahmed

Rest of the squad: Shahzaib Hassan, Ryan McLaren, Saifullah Bangash, Khurram Manzoor, Kashif Bhatti, Hasan Mohsin, Mahela Jayawardena, Usama Mir, Amad Alam.

Peshawar Zalmi

Zalmi finished third last season but that was not a true reflection of their performance. They were the best team at end of the league stage, topping the points table, but captaincy blunders in the qualifier against Quetta (Shahid Afridi over-bowled himself and Darren Sammy and under-bowled M Asghar and Hasan Ali) and Sharjeel Khan's blistering hundred in the eliminator stopped them from playing the final.

One can expect them to be tactically strong this season with the dual World T20-winning captain Sammy leading the team and England T20 skipper Eoin Morgan also in the squad. Morgan is the biggest addition to their team this season and will be playing in the tournament with some amazing batting performances in Australia for Sydney Thunders and India for England on his back. 

Marvellous Morgan's Big Bash miracle

Zalmi have their all bases covered and look a very strong team. They have experienced openers in the form of Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez, who can also bowl now; a strong middle-order in Marlon Samuels, Eoin Morgan and Sohaib Maqsood; swashbuckling power-hitters in Afridi and Sammy; a fast bowling arsenal in Chris Jordan, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali and Junaid Khan and a wicket-taking spinner in Asghar.

The Bangladesh duo Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, the most prolific Zalmi batsman, will also join the team after Bangladesh's historic one-off Test in India.

Considering Afridi's popularity and the large number Pathans living in the UAE, it will be safe to assume that Zalmi will be well-supported in Dubai and Sharjah.

Should Zalmi make the final, Morgan, Jordan, Shakib and Tamim will be unavailable due to national commitments, but the West Indies duo of Sammy and Samuels have committed to travelling to Lahore to play, according to the team owner, Javed Afridi.

Strength: Bowling – they can have as many as eight bowling options in the XI.

Weakness: Unavailability of key players – Morgan, Shakib and Tamim would be unavailable in the finals.

Watch out for: The 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Umair Masood, who scored a memorable hundred against the West Indies at the U19 World Cup. But opportunities may be limited as he is a supplementary pick.

Possible XI: 1. Mohammad Hafeez 2. Kamran Akmal 3. Marlon Samuels 4. Eoin Morgan 5. Sohaib Maqsood 6. Shahid Afridi 7. Darren Sammy 8. Chris Jordan 9. Wahab Riaz 10. Junaid Khan 11. M Asghar

Rest of the squad: Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Imran Khan Jr., Iftikhar Ahmed, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Dawid Malan, Mohammad Irfan Khan, Umair Masood. (Tillakaratne Dilshan and Samit Patel are stand-by players for Tamim and Shakib)

Quetta Gladiators

Last year's runners-up, Quetta owes much to the PSL and now has an important place in Pakistan cricket. International cricket is yet to see a Quetta-born player but thanks to this tournament the city is embracing the cricket craze.

Their success last year was largely credited to Sarfraz Ahmed who, despite being the youngest captain in the tournament, led the team with maturity and proved himself a shrewd cricket brain.

Their batting top order (Ahmed Shehzad, Luke Wright & Kevin Pietersen) and front-line bowling attack (Umar Gul, Anwar Ali, Zulfiqar Babar & Mohammad Nawaz) is more or less same as last year. The addition of the speedster Tymal Mills will make their bowling more powerful and exciting. They had trouble replacing Carlos Brathwaite, first chasing Moeen Ali and then Brad Hodge but eventually securing Bangladesh's Mahmudullah Riad.

Wahab, Shehzad get physical in fiery PSL clash

The middle order was their weak link last year but now with Rilee Rossouw and Thisara Perera in the team one can expect them to be more formidable. Then there is Anwar Ali, who just had a terrific domestic one-day tournament with Karachi Whites.

Quetta will again be heavily relying on their spin bowlers. Both Nawaz and Babar have the ability to contain runs and take wickets and they will be helped by the likes of left-arm orthodox Hasan Khan, leg-spinner Saad Nasim and the off-spin of Nathan McCullum. Not that their fast bowling is weak. In Umar Gul, Mills, Perera, Anwar and Mir Hamza they have decent pace resources too.

Strength: Batting and spinners

Weakness: Emerging players. Hasan is a left-arm spinner while Noor Wali is an allrounder. With Nawaz, Babar, Anwar and Perera already in the side Quetta will have to make some bold selection calls.

Watch out for: The 24-year-old left-arm quick Tymal Mills. He has the potential to consistently clock in excess of 150kph.

Possible XI: 1. Ahmed Shehzad 2. Luke Wright 3. Kevin Pietersen 4. Rilee Rossouw 5. Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk) 6. Mohammad Nawaz 7. Anwar Ali 8. Umar Gul 9. Zulfiqar Babar 10. Hasan Khan 11. Tymal Mills

Rest of the squad: Mahmudullah Riad, Asad Shafiq, Saad Nasim, Umar Amin, Noor Wali, Bismillah Khan, Mir Hamza, Thisara Perera, Nathan McCullum, M Nabi (partially available).

Islamabad United

Islamabad peaked at the right time in 2016, winning five on the trot to lift the trophy as only the second team to successfully chase 175 in T20s in Dubai.  Their campaign was marred by injuries – Shane Watson stood in as captain for the injured Misbah-ul-Haq, and then Watson himself left the tournament with an injury.

Islamabad has been forced into one major change, with Andre Russell serving a year-long ban for 'whereabouts rule' doping violations. England quick Steven Finn has been brought in, with big shoes to fill. Russell's 16 scalps in PSL-1 made him the leading wicket-taker.

Haddin, Hodge star in PSL wins

They have an explosive opening batsman in Sharjeel Khan and will be heavily relying on his power hitting. It was his hundred against Zalmi in 2016 that took Islamabad to final. He is most likely to open with Watson as he did last year. In the middle-order they have seasoned campaigners in Misbah and Brad Haddin. The England emerging batsman Ben Duckett will also get an opportunity to showcase his talent at some stage.

Islamabad will hope the likes of Sam Billings, Asif Ali and Amad Butt can fill the void left by Russell.  Fast bowlers Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Irfan will be complemented by the spin of Saeed Ajmal and Samuel Badree.

The average age of their team that won the final in 2016 was 32 years and 256 days, the second-oldest team ever to win a T20 final. Whether there is still life in the old unit we will get to see in the coming days.

Haddin blasts Islamabad into knock-out stage

The presence of their internationals in Lahore, should United reach the final, remains unknown. Shane Watson said while it "would be aweome to be able to go" for the cricket-starved Pakistan locals, he was undecided.

"I'm still up in the air with what I'm personally going to do," Watson told Fox Sports. "Just from a security point of view you want to be absolutely sure it's safe to go. Especially at this stage in my life, having a young family, I don't want to take heightened risks."

Watto hits one onto the road

Strength: Batting openers

Weakness: Power-hitting in the last overs

Watch out for: Saeed Ajmal has said he is targeting an international return through the PSL. The 39-year old off-spinner was the leading wicket-taker in the recent domestic T20 tournament with winners, the Karachi Blues. 

Possible XI: 1. Sharjeel Khan 2. Shane Watson 3. Brad Haddin 4. Khalif Latif 5. Misbah-ul-Haq 6. Sam Billings 7. Amad Butt 8. Saeed Ajmal 9. Samuel Badree 10. Mohammad Sami 11. Mohammad Irfan

Rest of the squad: Steven Finn, Asif Ali, Rumman Raees, Imran Khalid, Hussain Talat, Dwayne Smith, Ben Duckett, Shadab Khan, Zohaib Khan 

About the Writer

 @MazherArshad
@MazherArshad

Mazher Arshad is a Pakistani statistician and journalist based out of Lahore. He has covered various Test and ODI series as a TV statistician, and has earned a reputation as one of cricket’s leading stats gurus.

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