With less than 24 hours to go to the opening match of the much awaited inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL), here is a short analysis of the squads, their strengths, weakness and players to keep an eye on.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Kevin Pietersen, Ahmad Shahzad, Anwar Ali, Luke Wright, Zulfiqar Babar, Umar Gul, Elton Chigumbura, Thisara Perera, Bilal Asif, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Nawaz, Saad Nasim, Mohammad Nabi, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Bismillah Khan, Kumar Sangakkara, Aizaz Cheema, Ramiz Raja Jr.
Strength: Top order.
Quetta's strength clearly lies in their top order batting, boasting of explosive batsmen such as the likes of Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen; both batsmen have been in good form and were among the top run-getters in the recently concluded Big Bash. The top order is also likely to be bolstered by Kumar Sangakarra later in the tournament.
Weakness: Pace Bowling
The biggest weakness of the Gladiators seems to be their pace bowling. While they will have the services of Umar Gul who is one of the leading wicket takers in the T20 format, the rest of the pacers do not inspire much confidence. Moreover, Gul also has a tendency to blow hot and cold and on a bad day could prove to be expensive. The unavailability of Jason Holder and Jade Dernbach being ruled out due to injury has not helped either.
Player to watch out for: Mohammad Nawaz
Nawaz has been in brilliant form with both bat and ball and should be one player to keep a close eye on throughout the tournament. The young allrounder recently smashed 187 in a List A game, and was also the leading wicket taker in the recent series between Pakistan A and England Lions, where he took wickets regularly and was hard to score against.
Squad: Azhar Ali (c), Chris Gayle, Umar Akmal, Dwayne Bravo, Muhammad Rizwan, Ajantha Mendis, Sohaib Maqsood, Kevon Cooper, Cameron Delport, Zafar Gohar, Hammad Azam, Zia ul Haq, Zohaib Khan, Abdur Razzaq, Mukhtar Ahmed, Ehsan Adil, Imran Butt, Naved Yasin, Adnan Rasool
Strength: Explosive Batsmen
The likes of Chris Gayle, Umar Akmal and Dwayne Bravo are explosive batsmen and regarded as T20 specialists and have participated in various leagues all around the world. Their experience and hitting ability will be vital for Lahore's success. Cameron Delport also has a good T20 record and could prove to be a good pick for the Qalandars
Weakness: Pace Bowling
Much like Quetta, Lahore's weakness also lies in their pace bowling attack. Although they had signed up promising Bangladeshi pacer Mustafziur Rahman, a shoulder injury has ruled him out of the PSL. Zia ul Haq and Ehsan Adil are young Pakistan bowlers with loads of potential but they are quite inexperienced, whereas the likes of Hammad Azam and Abdul Razzaq are not likely to wreck oppositions. Much responsibility will lie on Dwayne Bravo and Kevon Cooper.
Player to watch out for: Zafar Gohar
A highly talented left arm spinner, and no mug with the bat, Gohar is definitely one to keep an eye on. Zafar was impressive with both bat and ball in the Under 19 World Cup in 2014, and has also found success at the domestic level since, but the high competition between spinners has meant Zafar has played only one international match. A successful PSL could well help him in cementing his spot in the national side.
Squad: Shahid Afridi (c), Wahab Riaz, Darren Sammy, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Shaun Tait, Tamim Iqbal, Junaid Khan, Jim Allenby, Aamer Yamin, Dawid Malan, Imran Khan Jr, Shahid Yousuf, Abdur Rehman, Musadiq Ahmed, Hassan Ali, Brad Hodge, Israrullah, Taj Wali, Mohammad Asghar
Strength: Late Order Firepower
Peshawar Zalmi have a good balanced squad with talented batsmen and bowlers at their disposal but their strongest point is arguably their late order firepower. The likes of Aamer Yamin, Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi can wreak serious havoc towards the end of the innings
Weakness: Mercurial Bowling
Peshawar Zalmi's bowling has the tendency to blow hot and cold. Junaid Khan hasn't been in the best of form, Imran Khan Jr. has had great success in the domestic circuit but not so much at the international stage while the likes of Wahab Riaz and Shahid Afridi have the tendency to have very good days or very bad days. If their bowling does come good, Peshawar have a good shot at going all the way.
Player to watch out for: Dawid Malan
While the PSL is a good opportunity for young Pakistani players to showcase their talent, talented players from other countries can also prove themselves at this stage. One such player is Dawid Malan. The Englishman has been in sublime form, having scored 253 runs at 50.60 for the England Lions vs Pakistan A in the T20 series and then following that up with
211 runs at 52.75 in the List A games. Capable of bowling some handy legspin as well, Malan is likely to play an important role in Zalmi's campaign and a successful first few games may see him in contention for England's Wt20 squad. Of the young Pakistani players, Hassan Ali and Mohammad Asghar are worth keeping an eye upon.
Squad: Shoaib Malik, Shakib ul Hasan, Sohail Tanvir, Imad Wasim, Ravi Bopara, Lendl Simmons, Mohammad Amir, Bilawal Bhatti, James Vince, Iftikhar Ahmad, Nauman Anwar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Usama Mir, Sohail Khan, Mir Hamza, Saifullah Bangash,Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shahzaib Hassan, Fawad Alam
The first thing that comes to mind upon seeing the Karachi Kings is the availability of allrounders. Shoaib Malik, Shakib Al Hasan, Imad Wasim, Ravi Bopara, Bilawal Bhatti and Sohail Tanvir are among the allrounder options in the squad that can win matches with bat or ball.
Weakness: Lack of Power hitters
Lahore have Chris Gayle, Quetta have Kevin Pietersen, Peshawar has Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi, while Islamabad as Andre Russell.
There is no reputed big hitter of note in the Karachi squad, however, and Karachi will be looking up to Nauman Anwar and James Vince to play a similar role for them
Player to watch out for: Mohammad Amir
Having made his comeback to cricket earlier this year, Amir impressed with his performances in the Bangladesh Premier League and earned a recall to the national side. While he did well in the ODIs, ending up as the second highest wicket taker of the series, Amir proved to be expensive in the T20 series. With the WT20 around the corner, the PSL will be a good opportunity for Amir to hone his T20 skills.
Squad: Misbah ul Haq (c), Shane Watson, Andre Russell, Samuel Badree, Mohammad Irfan, Brad Haddin, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Sami, Khalid Latif, Babar Azam, Imran Khalid, Kamran Ghulam, Umar Amin, Sam Billings, Rumman Raees, Amad Butt, Ashar Zaidi, Saeed Ajmal, Asif Ali
Strength: Balanced side
The Islamabad side seems the most balanced of the lot. They have an explosive opening pair in Sharjeel and Watson, solid middle order options in Sam Billings, Babar Azam, Umer Amin and Misbah ul Haq and a quality allrounder in Andre Russell. The spin bowling resources seem strong as well with Islamabad having Badree and Kamran Ghulam at their disposal, and while the pace attack of Sami, Irfan, Amad Butt and Rumman Raees is not the strongest by any means, it is still a strong attack likely to pose a threat to opposition sides.
Weakness: Bench Strength
While the core of the Islamabad team seems strong enough, the bench players like Asif Ali, Khalid Latif and Imran Khalid seems relatively weak. Saeed Ajmal is also unlikely to be the force he once was, having changed his action and could prove to be expensive if he features for the Islamabad side.
Player to watch out for: Babar Azam
Babar has already made a successful start to his international career, having scored 5 fifties in 9 of his ODI innings. Babar's T20 stats are also very impressive. He averages 45.83 across 27 innings with 7 fifties to his name. He will be an important player in the Islamabad United campaign and will be hoping to break into the WT20 squad with good performances in the PSL.