PSL II crystal ball

K Shahid previews the second season of the Pakistan Super League

PSL II crystal ball
After the disappointments of the past three months, the return of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) provides a welcome relief to the players and fans alike. While the league itself is no exhibition tournament, as the cut-throat competition in the inaugural season showcased, the next four weeks would be win-win for Pakistan cricket. This is especially true with the final being held in Lahore.

There have been big name transfers, noteworthy exits and high profile signings. So how do the teams shape up this year around? Who looks the likeliest to take home the PSL II trophy?

Here’s how we expect the final table to look like.

5th. Islamabad United

Not many people predicted Islamabad United to win the inaugural PSL, but clutch performances by the team – especially their star player Sharjeel Khan – in the playoffs helped Misbah-ul-Haq’s side to the crown. United will be without Andre Russell this time round, as last tournament’s ‘Best Bowler’ with 16 wickets, is serving a one-year ban over a positive dope test.

They’ve also transferred out Babar Azam to Karachi Kings; and while he wasn’t integral to United’s plans last year, he has evolved into a completely different prospect over the past 12 months. They can’t expect Mohammed Sami to replicate his bowling displays from last year, and will heavily rely on Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif to bail them with the bat.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Shane Watson as the two most illustrious players in the squad mightn’t instill too much fear in the opposition. The former would be feeling low after the Test team’s struggles, and having already won the title, mightn’t be motivated enough for a repeat.


4th. Quetta Gladiators

Like United, last year’s runners-up the Gladiators overachieved in many aspects. While the national T20 skipper Sarfraz Ahmed would be expected to lead the side well again, it remains to be seen if he can get the same out of the squad. Mohammed Nawaz, last season’s find for example, is now a known commodity and his struggles with the international side might aggravate his performances in the PSL, even on spin-friendly tracks.

Mohammad Nabi, another strong performer from last season, won’t be available either, with Afghanistan playing Zimbabwe. Hence, a lot would depend on Ahmed Shehzad translating his domestic form into the PSL and Carlos Brathwaite vying to make a name for himself beyond the final four balls of the World T20.

Kevin Pietersen, Quetta’s star player struggled with the Melbourne Stars and came in for severe criticism. He might struggle to live up to his billing – again.

3rd. Karachi Kings

With Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Kumar Sangakkara, Mohammed Amir, Babar Azam and Imad Wasim, the Kings aren’t short on big names. They’d be hoping that Gayle has a completely contrasting season to what he had with Lahore Qalandars last year and with last year’s Player of the Tournament Ravi Bopara also among the ranks, Kings would be hoping to go deep in PSL 2.

Like last year, Karachi have the strongest pool of domestic players with Shoaib Malik also expected to start as well. Imad Wasim and Babar Azam have lifted their status over the past year as well, and would be the mainstays of the Kings’ chances in the second season.

With Sangakkara leading the side they also have an experienced campaigner marshalling the troops. The Kings can definitely go all the way if all falls into place, but merging all the star power into a successful team would be a challenge.


2nd. Peshawar Zalmi

Zalmi were arguably the form team in the pool contests last year and were the favourites to win the trophy until the United juggernaut hit them. This season they’ll be led by twice World Cup winning captain Darren Sammy, whose leadership skills alone are enough to give the side an edge over everyone else.

Zalmi also have the in-form Kamran Akmal and Mohammed Hafeez whose bowling ban has now been lifted. Of course, with Shahid Afridi in the ranks anything can happen for Peshawar. Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz give the bowling a lot of strength as well.

They might be the team to beat in the pool stages again. It remains to be seen whether Zalmi can edge it in the final stages this year.


1st. Lahore Qalandars

They were at the rock bottom last year. And in the current format the team that finishes last stands out because it’s the only team that doesn’t participate in the playoffs. Lahore will be itching to erase that memory, and what better way to do that than winning the PSL.

The Qalandars might have lost Chris Gayle, but in Brendon McCullum – who will also be leading the side – they have a prove match-winner who can singlehandedly be the differential in taking Lahore all the way.

Lahore will also miss Dwayne Bravo, who is out with a hamstring injury. But they have Umar Akmal, who might have a thing or two to prove, along with Sunil Narine and Sohail Tanvir who are both handy T20 players.

There’s no team under more pressure to do well than Lahore. And with the final being played in Lahore, the Qalandars won’t need a bigger incentive to win the trophy.