Lahore Qalandars finished bottom of the pile once again last year and will be hoping to finally end their woeful Pakistan Super League (PSL) run that has seen them end up last in all four editions so far.
Their task will be made doubly difficult by the absence of the talismanic AB de Villiers.
However, Lahore still have a lot of players capable of driving them forward. Here are the two players that will be pivotal to Lahore’s campaign under new skipper Sohail Akhtar.
Fakhar Zaman: Lahore batsmen will know they need to perform much better than they did last time around if Lahore are to avoid finishing bottom.
Fakhar was Lahore’s top-scorer last year with 285 runs to his name and the fact that Sohail (241) and De Villiers (218) were the only two other players to even cross the 200-run mark shows just how few and far between were the contributions from other players.
The left-handed Fakhar was the only player to reach the half-century mark more than once with three fifties to his name, while Sohail and De Villiers were the only others to reach the mark even once.
Fakhar is woefully short of confidence and form, and will be hoping for a strong PSL campaign after losing his spot in the international side. The 29-year-old made just 50 runs across eight matches in 2019 at an average of 6.25 but has a point to prove, especially with the T20 World Cup later this year in Australia.
Australian opener Chris Lynn has joined the Lahore set-up but the bludgeoner may need some time to settle into unfamiliar conditions and has shown he is more comfortable with the ball coming onto the bat with pace than he is facing spin.
The experience of both Muhammad Hafeez and Salman Butt can prove vital for Lahore but neither have Fakhar’s ability to single-handedly take the game away from the opposition.
Shaheen Shah Afridi: Test skipper Azhar Ali praised Shaheen Shah Afridi after the Bangladesh Test and revealed that he has told the lanky pacer that he is now the side’s pace spearhead in the longest format.
Such has been Shaheen’s rise in international cricket that it is easy to forget that he is still a teenager. The expectations placed upon him seem almost unfair but he is reveling in the added responsibility and is set to lead arguably the best pace attack in the PSL this season.
Compatriots Usman Shinwari and Haris Rauf both possess the ability to turn any match on its head with just one spell but Shaheen is Lahore’s go-to bowler.
Rauf is in excellent form on the back of a hardly believable Big Bash League campaign and was Lahore’s top wicket-taker last year with 11 to his name, but Shaheen had the better average and strike-rate as he claimed 10 wickets in two less matches during his breakthrough year.
Since then Shaheen has only grown as a bowler and skipper Sohail will be hoping he can help fill the huge gap left by the absence of Nepal’s ace leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who was joint top in the wicket-takers chart alongside Haris with 11 scalps to his name.