So yesterday the PSL draft ceremony took place in Dubai, with many international and national stars present alongside the team owners and management staff. Players were picked categorically for the second edition of Pakistan’s now premiere T20 competition, with teams retaining, releasing and acquiring players of their liking. Here I present an analysis of each team’s squad and which team in my opinion secured the pole position heading into the race for the PSL 2017 title.
In a huge decision, it was announced that the PSL 2017 final will be played in Lahore’s Qazzafi Stadium. This will surely motivate the Qalandars to do well in this edition of the PSL after they finished bottom of the table in the 2016 season. They secured the biggest signing of yesterday’s draft by picking up Brendon McCullum who is also set to lead the side, succeeding Azhar Ali.
On paper, Lahore’s squad is a little light on batting stars apart from McCullum and Umar Akmal. In a surprise move ahead of the draft, they agreed to swap their marquee player from last season, Chris Gayle, with Sohail Tanvir from Karachi Kings. While that surely adds to their bowling strength, it leaves their batting a little short on big hitters.
Bowling wise, they are very well served with the likes of T20 specialist seamers Tanvir and DJ Bravo, in addition to spin king Sunil Narine. They also snagged Aussie fast-man Shaun Tait after Peshawar Zalmi released him which adds a bolt of speed to the already good combination of medium pacers and spin bowlers. Their bowling unit, arguably the best in the league, has the ability to defend any total their talented though not acclaimed batsmen can put up.
Look out for: Brendon McCullum
Making his bow in the PSL, he all set to take centre stage as captain, and if he is in form, Lahore can be a force to reckon with.
Might surprise you: Muhammad Rizwan
Young Pakistani version of Brendon McCullum may not have shown the same skill with the bat yet, but he can hit them surprisingly long, and he has already shown that he is the best Pakistani fielder around-and he can keep wickets as well!
Karachi Kings did not pick their full quota of international stars, but that doesn’t make much difference because they’re chock-full of Pakistan international stars, current and former. With the likes of Shoaib Malik, Muhammad Aamir and Imad Wasim from the current team, not to mention the likes of Sangakkara, Pollard and newest addition Gayle in their ranks, they will certainly be hoping to overcome last season’s disappointment.
Shoaib Malik can rely on big-hitters like Ravi Bopara and Pollard to give his team’s total a boost in crunch games, while also having the likes of budding talents Babar Azam and Imad Wasim to fall back on besides himself. They also brought in Kumar Sangakkara to further bolster the middle order, and Mahela Jayawardene is part of the squad as a player/mentor.
With the ball, Malik has the luxury of choosing from the likes of Aamir and Sohail Khan and the spin of Imad. Ravi Bopara is more than useful in this format with the ball as well, so there is no lack of options. The only chunk in Karachi’s armour looks to be the small number of spin bowlers to choose from, but otherwise they have a heavily armed batting unit, with great local bowling talent.
Look out for: Chris Gayle
After flattering to deceive last season, he has a point to prove after Lahore traded him to Karachi. If the Gayle storm hits the UAE, Lahore might regret their decision, and Karachi may well be on their way to a first title.
Might surprise you: Sohail Khan
He may be a test star for Pakistan, but he can be very good in the shortest form of the game as well. Good lines and lengths always come in handy in tight situations.
Quetta Gladiators were the surprise finalists in the last edition, and that too after topping the league table. They showcased great teamwork with the limited resources, making very few changes to their playing eleven over the course of the league matches.
This time around, they’ve actually improved their squad depth and did great business in the draft. They brought in the likes of Tymal Mills and David Willey to bolster their pace attack, which was adequate last season, but lacked the same potency this time around. Willey and fellow new signing Carlos Brathwaite are also more than handy with the bat in the hand, thus providing power to the lower order. Umar Gul and Zulfiqar Babar have been retained, providing the local portion of the bowling resources in addition to the up and coming Mir Hamza.
They let go of batting stalwarts like Sangakkara and Grant Elliot, who were snapped up by rival franchises, but retained the services of Kevin Pietersen and Ahmad Shehzad, giving captain Sarfraz Ahmed assurance at the top of the order.The middle order appears a little raw, but this gives the local guys like Bismillah Khan a chance to prove their worth.
Look out for: Tymal Mills
The English left arm fast bowler who almost quit cricket rose to prominence this year, also making his England debut. There can never be too much extra pace in your attack, so he may be the key to Quetta’s campaign as far as bowling is concerned.
Might surprise you: Asad Shafiq
He may not look like the type made for T20 cricket, and he has already established himself as a test star, but he has improved his T20 game a lot, and was a key figure in helping his side win the domestic T20 tournament, his high score being 96.
In a shock choice, Shahid Afridi announced that he is handing over the captaincy of Peshawar Zalmi to fan favourite and twice WT20 winning captain Darren Sammy. While there is no surprise about the person he chose to to replace him as captain, the shocking part is the decision itself. Under no pressure, and after Peshawar finished a respectable second in the league in the first edition of the PSL, Afridi’s decision was perplexing by itself. That he pulled it into more controversy with his explanation is another story.
Peshawar were arguably the best in doing business at the draft. Bringing in destructive batsmen like Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales, as well as adding the x-factor in star all rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who played for Karachi last season, Peshawar have built up a strong squad with unmatched depth. They let go of Shaun Tait and Brad Hodge, but compared to the talent brought in, they did excellent business.
Peshawar have arguably the best batting lineup in the league, with Afridi, Sammy, Morgan, Hales all capable of winning matches by themselves. Add to that the experience of Kamran Akmal and Tamim, and we can expect boundaries in abundance.
Having let go of Shaun Tait, Peshawar are also relying on local bowling talents in the form of Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan and young starlet Hassan Ali. When it comes to spin, they have world class spinning allrounders in Afridi and Shakib, while also having retained Muhammad Asghar, who impressed in the first edition of PSL. And with a captain like Sammy at the helm, this just might be Peshawar’s time, and fans will expect no less than a final appearance.
Look out for: Eoin Morgan
Making his PSL debut like McCullum, he can hit them to the moon on his day. His diverse array of shots might just be the highlight in the impressive batting ammunition at Peshawar.
Might surprise you: Iftikhar Ahmed
Having made his test debut earlier this year, he is full of confidence and energy, and has proven in the domestic circuit that he can be a very reliable head in the middle overs.
Defending champions Islamabad made the fewest changes to their team. Misbah ul Haq led side released the newest sensation Babar Azam in a surprise decision, and he was promptly snapped up by Karachi Kings. But they did bring in young Englishman Ben Duckett, so their batting strength was not compromised.
Carrying on their combination from last season, which proved hugely successful, they have fire in the batting line up in the shape of Sharjeel Khan and Andre Russel, as well as Shane Watson, to complement the steel of captain Misbah ul Haq. They retainde Brad Haddin, but he is also set to be assistant to coach Dean Jones.
In the bowling department they have the services of giant Muhammad Irfan once again, as well as seasoned paceman Muhammad Sami in addition to the West Indian Russel. Their spinning armour features stalwart Saeed Ajmal and left armer Zohaib Khan. In making so few changes, Islamabad will be hoping to recapture the same spirit as last season, and the squad that won them the title last time has the potential to do so again.
Look out for: Ben Duckett
The latest English sensation rose to prominence at U-19 level and has bossed the English domestic T20 circuit with his wide range of shots and impressive power hitting at such a young age.
Might surprise you: Ammad Butt
He was included in a Pakistan squad for the first time this year, and he can be a surprise package in between other star fast bowlers in the Islamabad side.