The Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) fifth edition begins on February 20 and all franchise owners have expressed their excitement while also voicing their satisfaction over their respective squads.
Quetta Gladiators are looking to become the first team to defend their PSL crown and owner Nadeem Omar believes they can do so despite making several major changes to the side.
“The Quetta Gladiators squad is well balanced with T20 specialists both in batting and bowling departments,” Omar was quoted in a Pakistan Cricket Board press release. “We did fairly well at the draft with guys like Jason Roy and Ben Cutting joining the Gladiators though we couldn’t retain players like Sohail Tanvir and Rilee Rossouw. Fawad Ahmed getting picked up again was also a great plus.
Omar believes the side have the balance required to do reclaim the title. “We are confident that we have a good combination like last year,” he said. “If we play to our potential, hopefully we would be the team with the silverware at the end of the PSL 2020.”
Owner of two-time champion Islamabad United, Ali Naqvi, is happy with the mix of youth and experience at the disposal of his side. “Looking at the final squad, we feel very confident about another successful season,” he said. “Our aim was to surround our younger local players with quality international pros. Hence we are delighted to get the likes of [Dale] Steyn in our squad. His impact on youngsters like Akif [Javed] and Musa [Khan] will be huge. It is one thing to be coached by a legend, but it is an unparalleled experience when you play and train with one.”
Naqvi believes Islamabad will produce yet another emerging star this time around. “Islamabad United have always focused on identifying talent from within the system hence the Emerging category has always been the priority for us. Even our current captain, Shadab Khan, was picked in the Emerging category in PSL 2017. After every PSL season, at least one emerging Islamabad United player has gone on to represent Pakistan. This season we are very confident about it happening again.”
Karachi Kings, on the other hand, have kept the core of the team from last year and owner Salman Iqbal has said that was a deliberate ploy. “I am very happy with the squad that we have been able to assemble,” he said. “Our philosophy was very clear that we have to retain core nucleus of the team with the players who we want to be with us in the long-term, while building a strong bench around them with strategic picks for critical positions.”
Iqbal is confident Karachi’s top-order can help the side. “Getting Alex [Hales] in the side at the last spot in the round was a coup for us as he was our target player who we wanted to recruit straight into the team. The top T20 batter Babar Azam now has one of the most dangerous top-order partners with him with an in-form Hales. Sharjeel Khan and Cameron Delport build a very strong top-order core with them.”
Karachi boast some of the finest talent in the country and Iqbal is hoping they can work well together this time around. “With Imad Wasim, Babar, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Aamir Yamin and talented youngsters like Umer Khan, who I believe has a tremendous future ahead, Osama [Mir] and now Arshad Iqbal, who has the desired skill and tactical maturity, we have various pieces we wanted and what remains to be seen is how great a team they can become,” he said.
Lahore Qalandars’ CEO Atif Rana believes the side have covered all the bases.
“Our squad is a great mix of utility foreign players along with experienced as well as exciting young players from Pakistan,” he said. “Composition-wise we have covered all the bases. We have good fast-bowlers and excellent spinners, along with the desired batting strength in the top and middle order. We wanted to achieve the target of putting together a balanced side, which I feel we have.”
Rana has promised viewers that Lahore have some exciting talents up their sleeves. “Last year, we groomed and presented Haris Rauf, who has now taken the world by storm with his performances. This year, we aim to provide players like Dilbar Hussain and Farzan Raja with similar opportunities to showcase their talent to the world.”
Multan Sultans co-owner Alamgir Khan Tareen, meanwhile, has said he is happy with the competition for places in the side.
“I am extremely happy since we were able to get all the players that our think-tank had identified. We had targeted certain players for specific roles and we are satisfied with our choices. We have good squad depth and decent like-for-like cover in every position,” he said.
Like the others, Tareen believes Multan have some exciting young players in their squad. “I am particularly excited about the emerging and young players in our team. [Mohammad] Ilyas had a strong PSL 2019 and was one of the top emerging players of the tournament, while Rohail Nazir’s recent accomplishments speak for themselves. Rohail has led the national U19 and emerging teams commendably and we believe that he can be an asset for Pakistan cricket in the future.”
Peshawar Zalmi opted to keep their Platinum players from last year so didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in the drafts but owner Javed Afridi is happy with what they managed to do with it.
“I am extremely happy with the squad. The PSL Draft went very well for us. We were able to pick the players we wanted,” he said. “We did not have the first pick in most categories, but the players we opted for ticked several boxes for us. Mohammad Akram is the one who looks after this department and his picks have always been top notch.”
Afridi identified some of the young players that can deliver for his side. “We have always opted for a mix of young players and experienced individuals. We had Hasan Ali with us when he was an emerging player and his progress is for everyone to see. Players like Ibtisam Sheikh and Sameen Gul proved their worth. This season, we have U19 stars in Haider Ali and Amir Khan. We are very excited to have them. Another player who could surprise and raise some eyebrows is Mohammad Mohsin.”