The Pakistan Super League is knocking at the door as the sixth season of PSL is set to start from 20th February. The curtain-raising fixture will see the reigning champions Karachi Kings go up against the Quetta Gladiators at National Stadium, Karachi.
The most fascinating fact about PSL this time is that the supporters are back in the stadium to cheer for their favourite teams. However, there are restrictions that stadiums can only allot 20% tickets of the entire attendance. To limit the travel all the 34 matches are set to be played in Karachi and Lahore. The first half of the tournament is set to take place at the National Stadium of Karachi while the other half will be organised at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
While the six teams face trial by fire in their quest to win the tournament there is only one team that has won it more than once, Islamabad United. While Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators have won once each proving the competitive nature of the tournament.
Therefore let us take a look at the favourites to win the sixth season of the PSL.
Led by Babar Azam, the Karachi Kings are yet again looking like the favourites to defend their title this season. While they might have lost the services of Alex Hales and Cameron Delport, they replaced the duo with the likes of Joe Clarke and experienced allrounder Dan Christian. While Clarke will play his first PSL after enjoying great success in the T10 recently, Christian is coming off fresh from his ninth T20 title with the Sixers in the recently concluded BBL season.
Christian’s arrival will add more variety to the lineup as he will join star allrounder Imad Wasim. However, with the ball, the onus will be on their star speedster Mohammed Amir who has been exceptional in these conditions both in the powerplays and also at the death. The Kings have their bases covered as they have struck the right combination of youth and experience.
Coming off from a great PSL season where they reached the finals, the Qalandars will be eager to repeat that performance and even improve on it by clinching the cup. They have already made their intentions clear by bringing in Afghan phenomenon in Rashid Khan. The Afghanistan leg spinner has to be the most sought after signing of this season as wherever he has played in the world he has repaid that franchise with exceptional performances.
Lahore were not so well armed in their spin department last season with Sohail Akhtar always turning to Mohammed Hafeez or Samit Patel. But now they have taken care of that aspect and in fact, they now have the most fearful bowling attack in PSL with pacers like Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi, Dilbur Hussain and also Khan joining the quartet as the premier spinner. South African allrounder David Weise will also be back with his all-round abilities.
Captained by Sarfraz Ahmed, the Gladiators have tasted success recently in 2019 by winning the PSL. However, they had a rough season last time out failing to make it to the knockout stages. But they have made amends and the team this season looks more balanced than ever. The signing of Chris Gayle can be a very decisive factor, while it depends on the mood of the universe boss but if he gets going there’s no stopping him. While Gayle won’t be available for the entirety of the tournament, they have got as good a replacement in Faf Du Plessis.
The raw talent of Mohammed Hasnain will also be a very important factor for the Gladiators. The 20-year old is one of the brightest talents to come out of Pakistan in recent years. He picked up 15 wickets last season will look to replicate that performance this season again. The Gladiators have brought in Cameron Delport to support Aussie allrounder Ben Cutting while Dale Steyn comes in to lead the pace attack and guide youngsters like Hasnain and Naseem Shah. While bowling was their downfall last season, it looks like they have covered that area decently this time out.
Batsmen to Bet On
The Pakistan limited-overs captain is considered one the classiest batters in world cricket. Azam on his day can win matches single-handedly just like he did in last season’s final against the Qalandars. The 26-year old batsman amassed 473 runs last season which was by far the highest by any batter in PSL history and he topped it of with a smooth half-century to lead the Kings to their maiden title last season.
The Englishman is undoubtedly very terrifying when he gets going. Hales is coming on the back of a great BBL season for the Sydney Thunder and will be looking to carry that form here as well. Hales scored 272 runs for the Kings in the last PSL and will look to improve on that performance this season with the Islamabad United. His main responsibility will be to get the team off to a flying start and make full use of the powerplay by going gung ho from the start.
Qalandars opening batsman was in fine touch last season as he finished second just behind Babar Azam scoring 325 runs. The Qalandars will be dependent on the veteran to give them those fiery starts and lay the platform for the big hitters to consolidate. When on song Zaman is undoubtedly one of the finest strikers in the PSL.
A well-known name in the T20 franchise cricket circuit, Lynn was the star signing for the Multan Sultans as he scored a century against them last season while playing for the Qalandars. However, due to commitment with Mumbai Indians, he did not turn up for the knockouts. But still, in 8 matches he scored 284 runs last season proving that he can be a very destructive batsman at the top of the order. The Aussie opener will look to play the whole season and bring glory for Islamabad United.
Bowlers to Bet On
The Phenom who weaves magic through his exceptional deliveries can be the game-changer of this PSL. Known for outwitting batters all across the globe especially in the T20 format, it will be the first time Pakistan will witness the magic of the Afghan leg spinner. Rashid Khan picked up 20 scalps for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the last IPL season with a jaw-dropping economy of 5.37..
The highest wicket-taker from the last PSL season with 17 wickets will return with the motive of improving. The young speedster has shown maturity beyond his years, mainly with his death bowling. Shaheen will have more support this season with Rashid Khan’s arrival and he will hope that he can be one of the vital cogs for the Qalandars this season.
The premier speedster for Pakistan will lead the pace attack for the reigning champions, Karachi Kings. Amir was exceptional last season as he made the new ball move both ways causing a lot of trouble for the opposition batters. He also came back with spells at the death and bowled effectively there as well. However, he will look to improve on his performances from last season as 10 wickets do not justify the talent and skill he has.
The youngster who showed great heart last season being the sole warrior for the Quetta Gladiators. Hasnain picked up 15 wickets and finished just behind Shaheen. But his ability to run in and bowl fast has given him the edge over other quick bowlers. He also has a mean yorker which compliments his death bowling.