The Pakistan Super League has been a huge success since its inception and has really provided Pakistani cricket with a world class stage to showcase its talent. This year, PSL 2018 is set to be bigger than ever thanks to the addition of a brand new team. The organizers are trying to ensure that PSL continues to grow its fan base without diluting the quality of cricket.
The teams have undergone some massive changes from last year and we could see some interesting results this year. Every team was allowed to retain 9 players and then release the rest in a common pool. The new team, Multan Sultans, then had the first 9 picks from the pool of released players after which the draft began with on a relatively even footing.
Can Peshawar Zalmi defend its title this year? Will the Multan Sultans struggle in their first year or take the league by storm? Who are the young Pakistani cricketers to watch out for? Let us take a look at the teams.
PSL 2017 Record: 4 wins, 4 losses, finished 4th on the League Table
Team Captain: Misbah-ul-Haq
Coaching Staff: Dean Jones, Waqar Younis
The Islamabad United team would have been disappointed to have finished second from the bottom last year even after having some of the biggest names in Pakistani cricket. The loss of Andre Russell because of a doping ban hit them hard especially as Shane Watson failed to make the kind of impact that was expected.
There are plenty of things to like in this squad, though. The bowling attack for Islamabad United is very strong thanks to the presence of players like Mohammad Sami, Rumman Raees, Shadab Khan, and Samuel Badree.
Shadab Khan was a revelation in the Big Bash this year and will definitely take that confidence into this year’s PSL. A few smart picks like JP Duminy, Sam Billings, and Luke Ronchi will also help add some batting heft to the squad.
Our only concern is the fact that some of their players are getting long in the tooth, Andre Russell is returning after a long layoff, and overseas picks like Duminy have been in poor form over the last few weeks.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: 5th
PSL 2017 Record: 4 Wins, 4 Losses, Finished 3rd on the League Table
Team Captain: Imad Wasim
Coaching Staff: Micky Arthur, Azhar Mehmood
The Karachi Kings have an exciting squad that could compete for the title this year. They are led by Imad Wasim, a strange choice in our opinion but since he led the team last year as well, the management has opted to go for consistency.
Babar Azam was the highest run-getter for the Karachi Kings last year as he scored 291 runs in the tournament (2nd highest in the tournament overall). Kumar Sangakkara was the next highest run scorer but he is no longer a part of this team and will instead play for the Multan Sultans.
While the Sri Lankan will be hard to replace, The Kings have made some excellent acquisitions. Colin Ingram was brilliant in the NatWest T20 and the Big Bash this year, Tymal Mills brings genuine pace to the table, and Luke Wright is also a very dependable T20 player.
The biggest start of Pakistani cricket, Shahid Afridi, also comes to the Karachi Kings. He left Peshawar Zalmi after not getting along with the management and the Kings were happy to welcome him with open arms. Afridi is still one of the best T20 bowlers of the competition and always a wild-card threat with the bat.
The highest wicket-takers for the Karachi Kings were Sohail Khan with 16 wickets followed by Usama Mir with 12 wickets but that was one of the weak links in their squad last year. We think they have rectified that to some extent with this revamped squad even though they have let Sohail Khan go.
A mix of young Pakistani players alongside some proved T20 names makes the Karachi Kings a very strong contender.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: Winners
PSL 2017 Record: 4 Wins, 3 Losses, Winners
Team Captain: Darren Sammy
Coaching Staff: Mohammad Akram, Younis Khan
The defending champions and crowd favorites whenever they play, Peshawar Zalmi has retained their gun players from last season and should be in contention for the title this year again. Their highest run scorer was Kamran Akmal with 353 runs, more than anyone else in the competition, and he will be key to their fortunes once again.
Surprisingly, though, Peshawar Zalmi did not have a single player other than Zalmi in the top-10 runs scorers for the tournament. Their next entry was Shahid Afridi at 12th but he has left the franchise as well.
This puts a lot more pressure on players like Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Shakib-Al-Hasan and the new recruits. The addition of Tamim Iqbal and Dwayne Bravo to the squad will help bolster their batting although Bravo is more of a bowler these days.
The success that Peshawar Zalmi achieved last year can be attributed to the bowling performances of Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali in particular. Both of these players are fit and raring to go once again. With a couple of very handy all-rounders to chip in with the bowling as well as Dwayne Bravo to boss the death overs, Zalmi has one of the best bowling attacks in the competition once again.
One real problem we see emerging for Peshawar is their captain. Darren Sammy is a good leader of men and immensely popular wherever he goes but he does not command an automatic place in the team. If Peshawar can be objective and get their selection right then there is no reason why they will not be challenging for the title once again.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: 2nd
PSL 2017 Result: 4 Wins, 3 Losses, Runners Up
Team Captain: Sarfaraz Ahmed
Coaching Staff: Moin Khan, Abdul Razzaq
Quetta Gladiators were strong throughout the tournament and the first to book their place in the final of the tournament. They were unfortunate to not have been able to secure the services of their overseas players for the final otherwise there was a very good chance of them being the defending champions instead of Peshawar Zalmi.
The Quetta Gladiators had an excellent batting line up last season with players like Rilee Rossow, Ahmed Shahzad, and Kevin Pietersen scoring runs with ease. This season, though, Ahmed Shahzad was released from the squad and will be playing for the Multan Sultans, while Kevin Pietersen is probably at the end of his career.
Pietersen was a shadow of himself in the BBL even though he played a couple of good innings. We are not sure how much he will be able to put on the park in this season of the PSL. Shane Watson, Jofra Archer, Rahat Ali were all picked by the Gladiators in the draft and that makes a strong squad even stronger.
A good mix of players is present in the Quetta Gladiators roster this season and even though we believe they have lost some Pakistani batting strength, they have the ability to make up for that on the bowling front.
The only real question mark remains about their overseas talent and if they will be able to adjust to the conditions quickly enough to make a mark.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: 4th
PSL 2017 Result: 3 Wins, 5 Losses, Finished Last
Team Captain: Brendon McCullum
Coaching Staff: Paddy Upton, Aqib Javed
The Lahore Qalandars finished dead last in PSL 2017 and that allowed them to have the first pick in the draft. This system allows teams to stay somewhat on an even footing and is good for the competition. The Qalandars have added the biggest six hitting batsman in the world right now, Chris Lynn, to their squad.
It is a huge addition that could really turn the fortunes of the team around. There are some question marks about Lynn’s ability to play the spinners, particularly on wickets that will afford them some help and not come on the bat as well as they do in Australia, but there is no doubt about his potential to destroy oppositions.
The Lahore Qalandars team is resembling the Brisbane Heat team of the BBLO somewhat with Brendon McCullum, Chris Lynn, and Yasir Shah all in one side. They also added the highest wicket taker of last season, Sohail Khan, to their team and have the exciting Shaheen Shah Afridi in their ranks as well.
With the mercurial Umar Akmal and the hero of Pakistan's Champions Trophy triumph, Fakhar Zaman, also in the squad, the Lahore Qalandars can legitimately dream of finishing much higher than last year. Mustafizur Rahman was also picked in the squad for PSL 2018 and if he can regain some of the form that saw him become one of the most wanted T20 bowlers around the world, then the Lahore Qalandars will be very difficult to beat.
The biggest weakness that we see in this squad is the lack of quality local middle order players but that is something that can be worked around.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: 3rd
Team Captain: Shoaib Malik
Coaching Staff: Tom Moody, Wasim Akram
There will be a lot of excitement around the newest team in the PSL especially now that they have one of the highest rated T20 coaches going around to help them. The Multan Sultans were hamstrung by the fact that each team was allowed to retain 9 players each but they still manage to get some very decent players in their squad.
Shoaib Malik is going to be the captain of this side and he is an excellent T20 player. He is often underrated in Pakistan and that could be one of the reasons that he was released into the draft in the first place.
The Multan Sultans also have Kieron Pollard to provide power, the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara for some class, and Ahmed Shahzad as one of the best Pakistani players of the last PSL. A couple of interesting picks in the draft like Darren Bravo and Nicolas Pooran to help boost the batting were made. These are not players that are traditionally associated with T20 stardom but they have very well for themselves whenever they have played.
Imran Tahir, Sohail Tanvir, and Junaid Khan are all quality bowlers but they will have to look for two more players to consistently fill in for the rest of the overs.
Overall, the Multan Sultans look like the weakest side on paper but that does not mean they are not going to win any matches. The beauty of T20 cricket is such that one player in form can carry his team and the PSL draft format ensures that the difference in quality between the best and worst teams remains very small.
PSL 2018 Predicted Finish: 6th (Last)
It's gonna be a really tough and close race for the PSL title this year, but we do believe that Karachi Kings have what it takes to go all the way this year. A bit of an outsider, but if their young talent can step up, we think they have the strongest team of them all in the tournament.