The bigger picture of the PSL: Part One
There is now just a week to go for the start of the much anticipated second season of the Pakistan Super League . While the league is mainly supposed to be a source of entertainment for the fans, there were a few players that came to the forefront in last year's edition and are now a part of the Pakistan national side. This article looks at some of the roles that the Pakistan sides are looking for, and some potential options who could fill those gaps.
1. An opener to partner Sharjeel Khan in LOI's.
Sharjeel Khan was arguably the find of last year's Pakistan Super League. Pakistan were looking for a dynamic opener who could play the 'modern' game, and Sharjeel stepped up. His best performance came in the second qualifier, where he hit 117 to knock out hot favourites Peshawar Zalmi. One year on, Sharjeel is a fixture in Pakistan's LOI sides, and there is already talk of him making it to the test side too. However, Pakistan will be looking for a partner for Sharjeel in this year's edition. While Azhar Ali had a prolific year in test matches, his role as ODI captain is under threat, and there is every chance he may lose his spot in the side too.
Sharjeel Khan was arguably the find of last year's Pakistan Super League
There are a number of options who could potentially replace Azhar at the top of the order. First up, there is Khalid Latif , who made a successful comeback to the Pakistan T20 side after enjoying a good season of his own. Latif, who averages 50 in 6 T20I's since his comeback, could well be considered for the ODI side, especially if he manages to have a good season this time around too.
Another option could be Fakhar Zaman . Zaman is a man in form and it is almost impossible to ignore his numbers coming into the PSL. The left handed opening batsman amassed runs across all three formats last year, scoring three fifties in five games for Pakistan A vs England Lions in the UAE series, and followed that up with an impressive 180 against Zimbabwe A. He was also the second highest run-scorer in the Pakistan Cup earlier this year, with 297 runs in five innings at 59.40, including a knock of 115 that set up Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's win in the final. He was also among the runs in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy for the HBL side, including 157 in the tournament final. If he manages to perform in the PSL, he could well win a spot in the Pakistan squad to tour the West Indies.
Ahmed Shehzad has been out of favour for some time with the selectors and management now. A poor showing in last year's WT20 means he has been dropped from all three formats for nearly a year now. However, Shehzad has been in good form in the domestic season after having been dropped. He scored runs in the BPL, and was the top run scorer in the departmental cup with 653 runs at 93.28 in 9 games. He also scored his highest List A score of 163* for Islamabad in the Regional One Day cup. Coming into the PSL, Shehzad will be a man with a point to prove, and could also be looked at as one of the options to partner Sharjeel in LOI's if he does well.
Kamran Akmal is another guy who has set the domestic scene on fire, and infact almost made it back to the Pakistan sides, after racking up consistent performances in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, as well as in the Regional & Departmental One Day tournaments. A good season in the PSL could be the performance that breaks the barrier and see him make yet another comeback into the Pakistan LOI side. Then there is Mohammad Hafeez who will be looking to solidify his spot in the national side. Hafeez had mixed results in the ODI series against Australia. While he was the top scorer in Pakistan's 2nd ODI win vs Australia, he went missing in the other games. His ability to bowl offspin will always keep him in contention for the seccond opener's spot, as he provides balance to the side with both bat and ball.
Finally, the likes of Shahzaib Hasan & Khurram Manzoor could also be considered for the opening spot alongside Sharjeel. Shahzaib has been in good form, having scored 171 in the Regional One Day Cup semifinal. He was also in good form in the recent domestic T20 competition, scoring 5 fifties in 9 games. His ability to play at a break-neck pace is something that will work in favour of him. However, he has to ensure he puts up consistent performances in the PSL to earn a recall. Playing alongside Gayle could be beneficial for the Karachi opener. Manzoor was discarded after a poor Asia Cup T20, but scored two aggressive centuries in the Pentangular Cup that followed the WT20, and he will be looking to make an impact in the PSL too, provided he gets a chance for the Kings.
2. A spinner to partner Yasir Shah in tests
Zulfiqar Babar has been the second spinner to partner Yasir Shah in tests in the UAE for the last few years, but the 38 year old's performances have dwindled in recent times, and he was dropped from the Pakistan test squads that toured New Zealand & Australia. As such, Pakistan are searching for a spinner to partner Yasir in tests, and the PSL will provide an opportunity to many young spinners to shine.
Mohammad Asghar had a brilliant PSL last year, but is yet to make his PSL debut.
The PSL was a haven for spinners last year, as they were able to dominate the batsmen on pitches conducive to spin in the UAE. Amongst them was Mohammad Nawaz . The allrounder was in good form for the Gladiators with both bat and ball, and was rewarded with national team selection. Since then, Nawaz has played 3 tests, 9 ODIs and 5 T20I's. However, Nawaz hasn't been too impressive with the bat in the games he has played. Still, he averaged 29.40 in the three tests that he played, and could be persevered with as the partner to Yasir for the test series against the West Indies.
Then there was Mohammad Asghar . The Peshawar Zalmi spinner impressed one and all, with his guile and accuracy last year. Although he was called up as a backup to Yasir in the test series vs Australia, he is yet to make his international debut. Asghar seems a very smart bowler for his age, and one who is destined for great things. He is probably the favourite to replace Zulfiqar in tests.
Another option would be Zafar Gohar . Gohar was the leading wicket taker for the Qalandars last year, despite scant opportunities, however he was often very expensive. While he has the ability to get big turn, as was seen on his debut against England in the UAE, one thing he has to work on is his control. He should have a better tournament with Brendon McCullum at the helm this year, provided he is able to break into the side, since the Qalandars also have Sunil Narine, Yasir Shah & Chris Green in their ranks.
Shadab Khan has had some stellar performances with both bat and ball at both U-19 level & for Pakistan A
There are also a couple of legspinners to watch out for. Firstly, there is Usama Mir. The Karachi Kings' legspinner also impressed last year, but suffered an injury soon after. This will be his return to competitive cricket after that injury, and it will be interesting to see how he fares.
And then there is Shadab Khan ; a recent find from the Pakistan U-19 level, who has also had great success for Pakistan A, with both bat and ball. He made his first class debut for Pakistan A vs Sri Lanka A in England, and found immediate success, as he scored 48 in Pakistan's first innings, and followed that up with 4/89 in Pakistan's second innings. He continued to succeed in first class cricket, as he scored a maiden 100 and took 9 wickets in the match against Zimbabwe A. Shadab also showed glimpses of his talent on his List A debut, when he took the Islamabad side to a tight win over KPK in the Pentangular Cup, with a steely 33* off 29 deliveries. Shadab seems like a star in the making, and will do no harm to his selection chances if he is able to perform at the PSL.
3. A pace bowling allrounder
Aamer Yamin did not get much opportunities with Zalmi last year, but will be looking to prove his worth with the Qalandars.
This role has been Pakistan cricket's missing link for some time now. Back in the good old days, Pakistan were blessed with the likes of Abdul Razzaq & Azhar Mahmood, who could contribute to the Pakistan LOI sides with both bat and ball. Pakistan have tried and tested a number of options like Anwar Ali , Bilawal Bhatti , Hammad Azam & Sohail Tanvir but none of them could nail down the spot and make the position their own. However, they will be looking to earn a recall with good performances in the PSL. Coming into the tournament, Anwar and Tanvir have been in good form. Anwar was announced as the best allrounder in the recent Regional One Day cup, while Tanvir was the second highest wicket taker in the Carribean Premier League, with 20 wickets at 14.81, to boot with 105 runs in 7 innings at an average of 35.
Aamer Yamin was also given some opportunities. In his second ODI, coming in at No. 8 with Pakistan at 76-6 chaing 278, he scored 62 to take Pakistan close to the finishing line (only to be denied by bad light). On his T20 debut, he took a wicket off his very first ball. Since then he has been dropped from the Pakistan sides for reasons only the selectors & management can explain. Aamer, who didn't get too many opportunities for Zalmi last year, will be looking to prove his worth with the Qalandars, and make a comeback to the national side.
Another player to watch out for would be Amad Butt , who missed last year's tournament because of an injury, but should play this year as an 'emerging' player. Amad can generate some high pace and should be a good third pacer for the United, although he can be expensive at times. He has also shown the ability to bat with a cool head under pressure; it was him & Zafar Gohar who took Pakistan U-19 to the finish line in the U-19 World Cup semifinal in 2014. He was selected for the single T20 match vs England, but was dropped from the squad without a game, as the team management thought he was not ready for international cricket just yet, and he will be looking to prove that notion wrong.
There are also some reports that Hasan Mohsin has been picked up by the Karachi Kings. Although this is yet to be confirmed, Mohsin could be one to keep an eye on if he plays. The batting allrounder, was the 4th highest top scorer of the U-19 World Cup 2016, scoring 293 runs in 6 innings, at an average of 97 and with a strike-rate of 96. He was also Pakistan's leading wicket taker in the tournament, picking 11 wickets at 14.81. Although he is not express pace, he is definitely a handy bowler to have in the side and could well fit the bill for Pakistan in LOI's as that pace bowling allrounder Pakistan have seeked for so long.
[to be continued]
The bigger picture of the PSL: Part One.
The bigger picture of the PSL: Part One.