The second season of the PSL is in full swing, and once again the Sharjah leg has added more life to the competition. The teams have been constantly experimenting with their playing XIs and whereas teams like Islamabad have settled into their ideal combination early, others haven’t been so lucky. Let’s have a look at each side and what they could do differently.
Islamabad’s plan has been simple. Stack the top with batsmen from the foreign players’ category and use quality local bowlers. This has resulted in Islamabad playing with Dwayne Smith, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Sam Billings in the top 5. What really works for Islamabad is that out of this top 5, they also get a genuine all-rounder, a part time medium pacer and their wicket keeper. This depth defines their team.
While their choice of replacing Sharjeel with Riffatullah might be questionable, his selection as opener increases the team’s batting depth with Watson or Misbah slotting in at 6. Alternatively, with Billings now gone, Duckett can easily slot in as an opener. For Islamabad to get the most out of Misbah, he should bat no lower than 4. With Watson at 5 and Asif Ali / Hussain Talat playing at 6, Islamabad are well settled.
Their bowling is strong enough that depending on the match details and Irfan and Sami having permanent spots, they can try a variety of combinations without weakening their playing XI e.g. choosing Ammad Butt or Imran Khalid for the lower order all-rounder; playing both Ajmal and Shadab for a spin heavy attack; or dropping a spinner and playing Rumman Raees to focus on pace.
Peshawar can make a lot of changes to their side. Let’s begin by mentioning the elephant in the room - Mohammad Hafeez - who must be dropped from the top order. In 5 innings, he has scored just 29 runs! Instead of playing him, Tamim Iqbal and Kamran Akmal form a perfectly fine opening combination.
Zalmis have persisted with Sohaib Maqsood whose game is a bit lost right now. His tally is 35 runs from 4 matches, out of which 30* was made in a single innings. Stats aside, he just hasn’t looked like he belongs at this level. On the other hand, Iftikhar Ahmed’s playing too high at 3; it’s a position where they must look at Haris Sohail to beef up their batting. With Morgan gone, I would pick Andre Fletcher ahead of Marlon Samuels in a pure slogger role at 4.
With Shakib-ul-Hasan at 5, either Iftikhar or Hafeez can come in at 6, where they may or may not be required to bat dependent on whether Afridi or Sammy need to be given more overs. To maximize their batting potential, Zalmis who often get stuck in the middle overs, must give Afridi more overs to bat regardless of match situation. If Fletcher, Afridi and Sammy are given more time in the middle, they can turn things around. With Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali as easy selections, Asghar Ali can complete their bowling attack and must be played. If an extra pacer is required, they can replace Fletcher with Chris Jordan or one of Iftikhar or Hafeez with Junaid Khan; neither decision is likely to weaken their batting.
Jason Roy’s departure leaves a big hole in the Qalandars’ side. Brendon McCullum will mostly likely return as opener alongside Fakhar Zaman. Following them should be Umar Akmal, Grant Elliot, Cameron Delport and Mohammad Rizwan to complete the batting. Umar is a natural choice at 3 regardless of the match situation. Elliot is a better batsman than given credit for and should bat at 4 for Qalandars.
Sunil Narine, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Shah and Muhammad Irfan (jnr.) are expected to play each game unless Baz wants to see what the spinners Usman Qadir or Zafar Gohar have to offer. It’s a bit of a downer for Zafar who’s a talented spinner and looked good in the previous season but cannot find a place in the team with Baz preferring a leggie. Narine’s hitting form gives Baz a special edge & he might be content in playing Narine at 7 to include an additional spinner, or a seamer like Bilawal Bhatti. However, this has backfired at times for Qalandars this season, a problem which can be fixed by playing Aamer Yamin - a promising all-rounder who can bowl with the new ball and provide an additional batting option at 7.
It’s time to for the Kings to drop Chris Gayle and try other options. Kumar Sangakkara and Babar Azam seem to have clicked as openers. Ravi Bopara must come at 3 as he can bat aggressively against quality bowling, followed by Shoaib Malik.
Kieron Pollard’s being wasted down the order and can play a big role in Karachi overcoming the middle overs rut. He must play in a floating role, coming in at no lower than at 5 to make maximum impact. If Pollard feels like an unaffordable luxury as he isn’t bowling much, playing Mahela Jayawardena as opener would be an ideal boost to Karachi’s batting. Sangakkara can then move at 3, pushing Bopara and Malik one position lower.
Karachi should look to play Imad Wasim and Ryan McLaren - two high impact all-rounders - in the team. Karachi’s core bowling attack is now evident: Sohail Khan, Mohammad Amir, Usama Mir and Usman Shenwari. For slow pitches however, they can experiment with playing a spinner in place of Usman.
Quetta has done well again despite their selection which has been strangely muddled this season. They stuck with Asad Shafiq as opener for 4 games who’s done nothing in the past that inspires confidence in his T20 batting. In the 5th game, Saad Nasim, a promising middle order batsman and leg spin all-rounder played as opener and didn’t bowl a single over. This decision came despite the fact that Rilee Rossouw, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Luke Wright have all opened at the international level. In their last game against Lahore, they played 3 left arm finger spinners (Mohammad Nawaz, Hassan Khan and Zulfiqar Babar) and a right-arm finger spinner (Mahmudullah), and two seaming all-rounders.
Quetta must cement its choice of openers. Rossouw is well equipped to open with Ahmed Shahzad. Following KP and Sarfaraz, Saad Nasim can slot in at 5, a position that suits him more. If Sarfaraz is more comfortable with Rossouw in the middle order, they have an opener ready in Luke Wright, who also bowls medium fast. Umar Amin can play if either Saad or Nawaz fail to perform, however, Quetta must retain the afore-mentioned batting order for the top 4.
With Nawaz, Thisara Perera or Mahmudullah and Anwar Ali to follow, there’s enough firepower to play bowlers Hassan Khan, Tymal Mills and Mir Hamza / Zulfiqar. It is strange that a bowler of Mir Hamza’s caliber is yet to play this season. For the right balance, Quetta can play only one of Perera, Mahmudullah and Wright, as Rossouw, KP and Mills are undroppable. This gives Quetta enough bowling options to hide bowlers that aren’t having a good day. Though their bowling is weak, clever manoeuvring will ensure success.