Patrick Noone assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of the six teams in this year’s Pakistan Super League
The defending champions have significantly bolstered their middle order with the additions of Mohammad Nabi, Dan Christian and the returning Colin Ingram. The trio will complement what was already a powerful top order with Sharjeel Khan likely to move up to open alongside Babar Azam after Alex Hales’ departure.
With the ball, Karachi were the most economical side in the Powerplay overs last season, with an overall economy rate of just 7.18 during that phase, largely down to the efforts of Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir who will once again play a significant role. Added to that, Nabi provides another option at the top of the innings if matchups are favourable while Mohammad Ilyas, a shrewd signing in the draft, gives them another dimension throughout the innings.
The lack of a quality wrist-spinner is seemingly the only missing piece in the Karachi Kings puzzle. Though they were not overly reliant on spin last year, with only 19% of their wickets taken by spinners, the use of only two venues this season means that pitches could tire as the tournament progresses and spin could come into play more.
Another minor concern for Karachi is the continued poor form of Chadwick Walton. The Jamaican has registered only one score above 31 since the start of 2020 across the BPL, PSL, CPL and LPL. After not retaining Mohammad Rizwan, Walton is the only wicket-keeper in Karachi’s squad so he appears certain to play; they will be hopeful he can recover his form or that the talent around him can absorb any shortfalls.
Colin Ingram ✈️
Mohammad Nabi ✈️
Chadwick Walton (wk) ✈️
Dan Christian ✈️
Imad Wasim (c)
Arshad Iqbal (Emerging)
With Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf, Lahore Qalandars have two of the most exciting young Pakistani fast bowlers in the competition. Last season’s beaten finalists took 67 wickets with seam last year, by far the most of any team in the tournament, and this looks set to be an area of strength again with David Wiese and Dilbar Hussain providing support to the big two.
Meanwhile, the addition of Rashid Khan gives the Qalandars an obvious boost to their spin resources. The Afghanistan star could play as one of two leg-spinners if they opt for Maaz Khan as their Emerging player in the XI. Samit Patel’s left-arm spin and Mohammad Hafeez’s off-spin means they could have as many as seven bowling options in their side, with all bowling varieties covered.
Batting-wise, the Qalandars’ middle order looks strong, with Hafeez in sensational form alongside last season’s standout player, Ben Dunk, while Patel, Wiese and Rashid give them plenty of power in the lower order.
There are slight question marks over the openers following Chris Lynn’s departure. Fakhar Zaman had a patchy PSL season last time around, though his form did pick up during the National T20 Cup in October. His likely opening partner, Zeeshan Ashraf, was more effective as a middle order player for Multan Sultans last year and, though he showed flashes of his undoubted talent in that campaign, remains unproven at this level.
Lahore have the option of bringing in Joe Denly at the top of the order, but that would mean leaving out one of Patel or Wiese which would seem unlikely, at least at the start of the tournament. A lack of bench strength in general is something that could well prove problematic to the Qalandars as the competition progresses.
Zeeshan Ashraf (wk)
Ben Dunk ✈️
Samit Patel ✈️
David Wiese ✈️
Rashid Khan ✈️
Maaz Khan (Emerging)
Shaheen Shah Afridi
The Sultans enjoyed their best ever season in PSL 5, finishing top of the table in the league stage before falling short in the playoffs. That success was largely built around their spin attack, with the evergreen Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi contributing towards Multan having the most potent spin attack of any team in last year’s competition. In addition to the two veterans, Usman Qadir has emerged as an international quality leg-spinner who could easily step in if one of the veterans were to suffer injury or loss of form.
With the bat, Chris Lynn and the in-form Mohammad Rizwan bolster what was an inconsistent unit last year while Sohaib Maqsood and Adam Lyth – returning to the franchise after featuring for them in the playoffs last year – give the Sultans plenty of options for their top order. Generally, Multan look to have a better balance between right-handers and left-handers this time around, having had a lopsided order in favour of the latter during the last campaign.
Multan had the oldest average age in the tournament last season and the additions of Sohail Khan and Imran Khan Jr. have done little to address that, especially as the former was drafted in place of Mohammad Ilyas. That decision means the Sultans will be reliant on the unproven talents of Sohaibullah and Shahnawaz Dhani to form their seam attack alongside Sohail Tanvir, their leading wicket-taker from last season. Multan will be hoping either or both of the youngsters can provide the genuine pace option that they were lacking last season, but both are unknown quantities at this level.
Meanwhile, the batting is perhaps a touch top-heavy with Lynn, James Vince, Shan Masood and Adam Lyth all battling for places in the top three. Then there is Rizwan, who has played some of his best innings of late at the top of the order, having previously been a middle order player. The new captain dropping down would seem the most likely scenario at this stage, as the middle order is in need of bolstering. Carlos Brathwaite is another option for those positions, but it is hard to see how he gets in ahead of the other overseas players in the squad.
Chris Lynn ✈️
James Vince ✈️
Rilee Rossouw ✈️
Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk)
Shahnawaz Dhani (Emerging)
Imran Tahir ✈️
The 2017 champions have built a strong middle order with the additions of David Miller, Sherfane Rutherford and Ravi Bopara to go alongside the experience of Shoaib Malik, while Kamran Akmal and Haider Ali is one of the most powerful opening pairs in the competition.
With the ball, Zalmi look well set in the Powerplay with Mohammad Irfan and Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman likely to give them a much needed boost in a phase in which they struggled to take wickets last season. They averaged one wicket every 24 balls during the first six overs of PSL 5, the joint worst strike rate of any team in that phase.
Mujeeb also massively improves Zalmi’s spin attack, with Emerging player Ibrar Ahmed also likely to supplement what was a weak area for them last season. Zalmi only bowled 33 overs of spin, the lowest of any team in the competition, and took just five wickets at an economy rate of 9.21.
As explosive as the middle order could be, it is one that could also be tied down with quality spin. Malik, Rutherford, Miller and Bopara all prefer pace on the ball so there is a danger they could get bogged down, especially since teams will likely have spin overs in hand to bowl at the middle order, given they are unlikely to use them against the opening pair.
Kamran Akmal (wk)
David Miller ✈️
Ravi Bopara ✈️
Wahab Riaz (c)
Saqib Mahmood ✈️
Ibrar Ahmed (Emerging)
Quetta have an embarrassment of riches in the fast bowling department with Usman Shinwari and Dale Steyn having been brought in alongside Mohammad Hasnain and Naseem Shah. Their spin attack is similarly strong despite the loss of Fawad Ahmed, with leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood coming in off the back of his debut for Pakistan this month and Mohammad Nawaz as steady as ever with his left-arm spin.
The Gladiators’ batting has undergone a revamp with Jason Roy and Shane Watson being replaced by Tom Banton and a combination of Chris Gayle and Faf du Plessis. Along with Azam Khan and Ben Cutting, that is potentially one of the most powerful batting lineups in the competition. That depth will give them the opportunity to improve on their death overs run rate from last year, which was the lowest in the competition at 8.89.
However, one thing that could potentially hold them back in that regard is the fact that they will likely have a long tail, with Zahid, Hasnain and Naseem all offering little with the bat. That could prevent them from going as hard as they would perhaps want to, but that would appear to be a minor weakness in what looks to be one of the strongest squads in this year’s competition.
Chris Gayle/Faf du Plessis ✈️
Tom Banton ✈️
Cameron Delport ✈️
Ben Cutting ✈️
Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk)
Arish Ali Khan (Emerging)
It was a disappointing season for the two times winners last year, and they were dealt a further blow when Colin Munro was forced to rule himself out of the tournament. Paul Stirling, Munro’s replacement at the top of the order, forms part of a lengthy batting lineup for Islamabad, with the returning Alex Hales coming off the back of an exceptional Big Bash League season likely to partner Stirling at the top of the order.
With a middle order engine room of Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed and Faheem Ashraf, Islamabad have enviable batting depth with Hussain Talat, Zafar Gohar and Rohail Nazir all offering serious alternatives. That middle order ballast will address a key area of weakness from last season, when Islamabad registered the lowest average runs per wicket of any team during overs 7-15.
While Hasan Ali looks like a shrewd signing, given his recent return to form, Islamabad’s fast bowling stocks otherwise look a little light. It might be the case that they change the balance of their team by leaving out a domestic batsman in order to play both Mohammad Musa and Akif Javed, or alternatively, bringing in Ali Khan for an overseas batsman to avoid their attack being too one-paced.
Paul Stirling ✈️
Alex Hales ✈️
Phil Salt (wk) ✈️
Shadab Khan (c)
Ahmed Safi Abdullah (Emerging)
Fawad Ahmed ✈️
Patrick Noone is a CricViz analyst