The month of February has just started and that means that the second season of the Pakistan Super League is almost upon us. The sophomore edition promises to better than the previous one and for the first time ever there will be a game played in Pakistan.
Looking across the league, all the teams have improved and have found out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Let’s take a look at all five sides and see what they have done during the offseason to improve their rosters.
Strengths: Quick batting, big hitters
Weakness: Poor bowling through the innings
Qalandars were one of the strong sides in PSL 1, at least on paper. The side was full of superstars including Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Umar Akmal and Mustafizur Rahman. But by the time the PSL actually came around, Mustafizur was ruled out due to injury and Gayle had a poor season by his lofty standards in franchise cricket. That left too much to do for Umar Akmal and Dwayne Bravo, and the team faced the ignominy of being the only side not to reach the playoffs.
Since then, the Qalandars have addressed the issue of weak bowling by trading away Chris Gayle for Sohail Tanvir and further recruiting Grant Elliott and Sunil Narine. They will also have the services of Yasir Shah who was dealing with a drugs test issue during the previous edition of the PSL. Grant Elliott had a great season for Quetta Gladiators last season and his experience will be a massive boost for the Qalandars’ bowling.
Lahore have also improved on their batting after having finished season 1 as the best batting unit in the PSL. They had more runs per innings than the league average and scored runs quicker than the other teams. Since then, they have improved on that front by drafting in Brendon McCullum, who is a dynamic batsman and is also the new captain. His addition to the team improves their batting and his captaincy will add a nous to the Qalandars which they lacked last season. Along with that they have got Jason Roy who has been in top form and with his tendency to go after the attack, he will be another added benefit for the Qalandars.
Weakness: Lack of boundary hitters, lack of wicket takers, captaincy muddle.
It was a surprise that Karachi Kings even made it to the playoffs, given that they were a poor batting side, a poor bowling side and were led by a confused captain (they changed captain right before the playoffs). In terms of their composition, the Kings’ committed the twin sins of having no big hitters, as well as no bowlers who could provide them with control in either phases of the game.
Karachi Kings have slightly improved with respect to their big hitting woes by adding Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard in their roster, but that’s asking a lot from two batsmen whose inconsistency is well documented, a lot will depend on Mahela’s ability to gather runs, but that comes at a risk of slow scoring. But don’t be surprised if these batsman manage to find a way to work around it.
Their bowling though has not seen many changes and remains the same, which is to say a limited attack that doesn’t offer a lot of control. Ryan McLaren, Bopara & Sohail Khan though on their own are good T20 bowlers, but they are not the bowlers who can add some control, they tend to leak runs, while Aamir and Imad Wasim are bowlers who are solely dependent on the conditions available. So it will be important to see how Sanga uses these bowlers to bring control and pick wickets as well.
A fillip for the team though will be the services of the Sri Lankan duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara, with Sanga will be leading the side. While both are tactically adept, Sanga has been in poor form for his BBL side and was dropped midway. In contrast, Jayawardena had a great time in the Kiwi T20 tournament, the Super Smash.
Strengths: Great bowling attack.
Weakness: Average batting.
Peshawar Zalmi was one of the best sides in the PSL last year, and while their batting was average, it did the job. It was the bowling department where the team really flourished, as their attack bested the league average for both economy and wicket-taking.
Since then, Zalmi have improved their batting by recruiting Eoin Morgan to add some crucial firepower in the middle order. The inclusions of Sohaib Maqsood and Haris Sohail also stabilises their batting, but the team’s big hitting ability is still suspect. Dilshan’s inclusion might resolve some of that worry, while his bowling and fielding will be a great help.
On the bowling front Zalmi have improved further. Chris Jordan will look to improve their death bowling, while the Pakistani bowling unit of Wahab, Junaid, Hasan Ali and Asghar means that they have retained the bowlers who made them such a thread last year.
The captaincy change from Shahid Afridi to Darren Sammy will mean that the side will be lead by a captain who has won two WT20 events and his big game experience as captain will help the Zalmi side massively.
Zalmi’s biggest worry is that the England tour of West Indies will see them lose Eoin Morgan, Chris Jordan, Andre Fletcher and Marlon Saumels midway through the tournament, which could rob them of a lot of momentum.
Strengths: Boundary hitting, strike rotation, economical bowling and wicket taking bowlers
Weakness: No genuine fast bowler
Last year, Quetta Gladiator's top batsmen (Luke Wright, Ahmed Shehzad, Kevin Pietersen, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Kumara Sangakkara) contributed 71% of the total runs they scored in the PSL. That bodes well for last year’s runners-up as they have retained this core while only losing Sangakkarra. They have also improved their boundary hitting ability with the addition of the all rounders Thisara Perera and Mahmudullah Riyad.
The obvious weakness in the side has been the absence of a genuine fast bowler. Last season, Umar Gul was erratic and so was Anwar Ali. The best pacer Quetta had was Aizaz Cheema yet for some reason he didn’t play too many games. This season though there is an improvement in the pace department as Tymal Mills joined the Quetta side and his quick pace and variations in speed will help Quetta massively.
Strengths: Batting, Bowling and Catching
Weakness: Not many quick scorers
The champions Islamabad United are a well built T20 side, as the side has some big hitters and several good T20 bowlers. With the bat the Islamabad United has a similar side with the inclusion of only Ben Duckett to the lineup, and his ability with the bat will help the side immensely. Duckett might also help with United’s sluggish run-rates, which was typified in Shane Watson’s innings which were often stable without being spectacular.
The bowling unit largely remains the same with Shadab Khan drafted into the spin attack while English international Steven Finn will replace the recently banned Andre Russell. Shadab is an exciting prospect for Islamabad United as he is a leg spinner who can bat and he could add some balance to the side if they need him. Finn will have to lead the bowling attack along with Irfan and the duo’s accuracy and speed will set them apart from other attacks. With Sami as a 3rd seamer option, the Islamabad United bowling attack looks strong.