Aging squad might struggle to keep pace
Last year’s runners up Peshawar Zalmi have qualified for three consecutive finals so they certainly know what they are doing and it makes sense that they were eager to keep the same core of players as they were the only franchise to retain their three platinum players.
West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard impressed for his side against India and he has made more T20I runs in 2019 than he has in any other calendar year, doing so at an average of 45. Pollard has shown his ability to win a match practically on his own several times over the years and if he stays in form then Peshawar will be a force to reckon with.
The other two platinum picks — Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz — have been well below par this year, with Hasan’s form suffering a particularly drastic slump in 2019. Hasan’s 25 wickets last year was the highest tally in a single Pakistan Super League (PSL) season but the pacer has looked a shadow of his usual self ever since.
The right-hander has been plagued by injuries and has played just three T20Is this year, giving away 124 runs and taking just two wickets at an average of 62 and an economy of 10.33. He has been similarly woeful in ODI cricket as well, taking just seven wickets in 12 games at an average of 89.28 and an economy of 6.61. The pacer is currently out of the side due to injury and Peshawar will be hoping he can regain his form after getting a long overdue rest.
Wahab, who will be nearing 35 by the time the tournament comes around, has lost a yard of pace and therefore his biggest weapon. The left-armer has taken two wickets in T20Is this year at an average of 45 and economy of 8.18.
The duo’s lack of form will be especially worrying considering Peshawar, who have boasted the finest pace attack in almost every season, look a little short on fast-bowlers this time around. Umaid Asif has left and the incoming Rahat Ali is much more suited to Test cricket than he is to T20s even though he impressed in last year’s campaign.
Age may have caught up with Wahab and that might just be the case for veteran wicketkeeper batsman Kamran Akmal, who is the PSL’s all-time top-scorer. The 37-year-old might just be Peshawar’s most important player and it comes as no surprise that his own fortunes have so closely mirrored the team’s. In PSL 2, Kamran finished as the top scorer and Peshawar won the competition. In PSL 3, Kamran came second behind Luke Ronchi and Peshawar finished behind Ronchi’s Islamabad. In PSL 4, he finished behind Shane Watson and his Quetta Gladiators side defeated Kamran’s Peshawar in the final.
The worrying thing then is that Kamran had a woeful National T20 but did impress in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy so his poor domestic tournament may just have been a blip.
Peshawar certainly aren’t short of experience, especially after the addition of all-rounder Shoaib Malik. The former Pakistan captain has been dropped from the international side but is still one of the finest players around and can help the side in the middle overs.
English left-arm spinner Liam Dawson will provide Sammy with a spin option, while Malik will almost certainly try his arm at one point or the other as well.
The form of Sammy himself is a question mark though — he has been woeful in the T10 league — and it will be interesting to see how he utilizes youngsters such as Tom Banton and Imam-ul-Haq in the batting line-up.
A lot of T20 experience
Core players remain the same
Pacers not in form
Lack of specialist spinners