Although we’re still a good few months away from the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), the teams have taken shape. We can now start analyzing them after Wednesday’s Pakistan Super League draft, which was held in the capital, Islamabad. All the teams came out with good picks, meeting the needs of their team based on last season. Some teams did build possibly stronger teams than others.
In this article, I will take a look and summarize each of the six team’s picks and rank the teams in order from best draft to worst. We’ll start with title-defenders, two-time winners, draft hosts and capital, Islamabad United.
Last season’s winners, Islamabad United, have released captain Misbah Ul-Haq. However, they have kept all the other players who were crucial in their title win. Spinner Samit Patel has been re-drafted, while Islamabad’s core of Luke Ronchi, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali, Rumman Raees and Hussain Talat have all been retained. Islamabad has also added on experience in Englishman Ian Bell and South African batsmen Cameron Delport.
Islamabad’s biggest trouble will be in leadership. They’ll need to find a good captain. Without Ul-Haq, the captaincy could either fall to Rumman Raees, Ian Bell or Luke Ronchi. None of them possess decent experience captaining.
Despite this, Islamabad United’s team is relatively the same winning combination which allowed them to win last season. One can expect the Lions to push for the title again.
The Sixth Team
Unfortunately, due to the lack of payments from Multan Sultans’ owners to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), the PCB has re-claimed the team. However, The Sixth Team, formerly Multan Sultans, has made some massive improvements. Last season, the pace bowling performed really well, which was assisted by Imran Tahir’s leg spin. It was also assisted by centuries from Sri Lankan legend, Kumar Sangakarra.
However, coming towards the latter end of the group stage, the bowling became less effective. Multan slumped massively from second to fifth place. They went from what looked like winning the title in their debut season, to failing to qualify for the knockout rounds.
This season, The Sixth Team will be without Sangakarra, who has retired, and surprisingly Imran Tahir, who went undrafted. Despite this, what made The Sixth Team’s draft so good was not just patching up the batting. It was improving it by drafting ex-Australian Captain Steve Smith and former Karachi Kings and Peshawar Zalmi player all-rounder Shahid Afridi. The bowling also has new fire to it with the likes of test superstar Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Irfan Khan and Mohammad Junaid. The addition of West Indian Nicholas Pooran will be important in the middle overs, a time where Multan especially struggled in their batting innings.
Lahore has always drafted excellent players, but a poor team. Generally, they end up drafting big-name players, but fail to find a combination which goes together. The biggest issue last season was the numerous batting collapses caused by a lack of lengthy partnerships. This time around, Lahore looks to fix that by including Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail and ex-South African international Ab de Villiers.
For every good in this world, there is a bad, and for every bad in this world, there is a good. If the batting last season was atrocious, last season’s bowling was splendid. The spinners massively provided Lahore with opportunities to win and the Yasir Shah-Sunil Narine combination became lethal. Unfortunately, Lahore has let go of Narine, but the Yasir Shah can still receive support from Sohail and Hafeez and Nepali sensation Sandeep Lamichhane.
The fast bowling also looks to be far better this season with the draft of Rahat Ali. Lahore will probably continue with their development of youth players in the drafting of Pakistan Under-19 Captain Hassan Khan and Gauhar Ali, along with the retainment of Agha Salman and Sohail Akhtar. West Indian T20I Captain Carlos Brathwaite will also be a massive inclusion for the Qalandars.
Despite Karachi being the largest city in Pakistan, it seems Peshawar has become Pakistan’s most popular team. Based on the team which Peshawar has created from the draft, it only seems like they’ll become more popular. Although they have let go of pace bowler Umaid Asif, Peshawar Zalmi have re-enforced their team with the draft of West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard from Multan Sultans. They also retained Chris Jordan and spinner Ibtisam Sheikh.
It also seems Peshawar is sticking to their Afghani roots in their inclusion of Nabi Gul and Samiullah. South African born Englishman Dawid Malan, Umar Amin and Sohaib Maqsood will be useful for Peshawar’s batting, but the draft has been headlined by Peshawar’s pick of Misbah Ul-Haq. Overall, Peshawar’s team looks strong with these picks, the retainments of bowlers Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz and Liam Dawson and the batting of Captain Darren Sammy and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal. It should only be delightful to see Zalmi play in the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League.
Quetta has always possessed excellent batting with the likes of Captain and Wicket-Keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed. This year will be no different with the drafts of Dwayne Bravo, Fawad Ahmed and the re-inclusion of Ahmed Shehzad. Last season, the bowlers performed well. This year, Quetta fans will expect good performances from spinner Mohammad Asghar, who was drafted from Peshawar. They’ll also expect good performances from Sunil Narine, who was drafted from Lahore, Sohail Tanvir, who has been included from The Sixth Team and all-rounder Anwar Ali.
What puts Quetta so low on this list? Perhaps not only just the release of Hassan Khan, but rather what they got in return: Umar Akmal. Akmal was a massive failure for Lahore Qalandars last season, while Khan’s economical bowling and improved batting won Quetta matches. A silly and be-wildering decision rather from the Quetta team puts them second-last on this list.
Ya Karachi, Jaan-e-Pakistan! (Oh Karachi, the life of Pakistan!) A city of nearly thirty million people, one would expect the Karachi Kings to be the strongest team in the tournament. But in fact, it’s been nearly the opposite. Although Karachi possesses decent players and excellent team combinations every season, performance failures have always held back Karachi from making a finals appearance.
This season, Karachi have made excellent picks in the draft, but the question will be if the players will be good enough to provide a long-awaited title. Karachi have re-drafted spinner Usama Mir and pacer Sohail Khan, while adding on batsman Sikandar Raza, Aamir Yamin and Liam Livingstone.
Karachi has also nicely retained the core of their team by keeping hold of bowlers Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim, while holding onto excellent batsmen such as Babar Azam, Colin Munro, Colin Ingram, Mohammad Rizwan and Ravi Bopara.
Although this was the order in which I rated how well teams completed their drafts for next year’s Pakistan Super League, this will definitely not be how the Pakistan Super League itself concludes. With just six teams, the competition is bound to be fierce. If Karachi’s players can kindle the fire within them, Karachi will become the most feared team in Pakistan.
If Lahore can fix their batting problems, Lahore would be unstoppable. If Quetta uses their bowling assets correctly, a much-deserved title will arrive in Balochistan. If Islamabad continues to use spin excellently, the title is theirs. If The Sixth Team’s batting is not dealt with, bowlers will have sleepless nights. If Peshawar can chase well with their inclusion of excellent batsmen, Peshawar will win hearts.
So far, the Pakistan Super League has exceeded in their goals of working to bring cricket back to Pakistan and improving the national team. This season, as more matches will insh’Allah (hopefully) be held in Pakistan, and as the cricketing talent in Pakistan continues to grow, the Pakistan Super League will only provide fans around the world with a little over a month of excitement, joy and celebration.