Teams are now more balanced and provide an even mix of star power going into season 2 of the Pakistan Super League.
At the player draft, each team had to pick 20 players. These included three picks each in the platinum, diamond, and gold categories, five in silver, two in emerging, and four supplementary picks.
For the four supplementary picks, there were two possible combinations: 2 foreign + 2 local or 1 foreign + 3 local.
Teams had the option to retain up to 16 players from last year. They also had the option to trade players with other teams. The retention and transfer windows closed in September.
Foreign players in the supplementary category are a part of the active squad and can be picked for any match whereas the local players in the supplementary category may only replace an injured player in the original squad.
If a player goes unpicked in his assigned category, based on his consent, he may be demoted to the next category.
A playing XI can have a maximum of four foreign players and must have at least one emerging player.
Here is a recap of how the five teams shape up now:
Karachi Kings will probably walk away as the most satisfied team from this draft.
The biggest move for the Kings was the Chris Gayle trade with Lahore Qalandars. Gayle will add a lot of firepower to the Kings at the top of the order, a gamble that did not work for the Qalandars last season!
Kumar Sangakkara will be leading the Kings this season and it helps that Gayle, Sangakkara, and Imad Wasim played together in the CPL for Jamaica Tallawahs. Add Shoaib Malik, Mahela Jayawardene, Kieron Pollard, and Ravi Bopara to this and Karachi have some pretty strong leaders.
Babar Azam will now want to a prove a point after Islamabad United gave him away in a trade with the Kings. He has been in excellent form this year and he would want to tick off a strong PSL early in his career.
The Kings might look back at their silver picks and regret picking both Khurram Manzoor and Shahzaib Hasan. With Gayle, Sangakkara, and Malik in the squad, they could have gone with one local opener and one local pacer. Rahat Ali, who went unpicked in the gold category, might have been a better silver pick. He was instead picked in the supplementary category.
It was also surprising to see young leg-spinner Usama Mir demoted to the supplementary category. Kashif Bhatti, a left-arm spinner from Sindh, was picked in the main round.
My Karachi Kings XI: Gayle, Sangakkara, Babar, Malik, Bopara, Pollard, Imad, Amir, Kashif Bhatti, Sohail Khan, emerging player
Lahore Qalandars have almost completely revamped their side with a new captain and new signings.
Their biggest pick this season is former Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum who doubles up as captain and team mentor.
Sohail Tanvir comes in as a result of a trade with Karachi Kings and he will add depth to the bowling department. Spinners Yasir Shah and Sunil Narine are likely to make their PSL debuts this season. Yasir missed last year’s event as a result of a doping ban.
Grant Elliot, Shaun Tait, and Anton Devcich make the rest of the foreign signings.
The Qalandars might end up regretting their move to give up Sohaib Maqsood from the silver category. They traded him with Peshawar Zalmi and got medium-pace all rounder Amir Yamin. But now, they seem to be more bowling-heavy and this might disturb their combination.
Another issue that the Qalandars now face is adjusting Azhar Ali in the playing XI. If Azhar plays, it means that Umar Akmal will have to be demoted. Having a player like Sohaib at 5 or 6 would have worked out well.
Anton Devcich will be very handy in UAE conditions and the Qalandars are likely to swap between him and Tait. McCullum, Delport, and Bravo are likely to form the core of the foreign signings playing most of the games.
Fakhar Zaman, a left-handed opener/top order batsman, is an exciting pick. Last month, Fakhar scored 180 off 146 balls for Pakistan A against Zimbabwe A. He is viewed as one of the very few modern-day limited overs batsmen in Pakistan.
Ghulam Mudassir from the emerging category is one to watch out for. Mudassir is a left-arm pacer who recently played for Pakistan A. The Qalandars also have Usman Qadir, the son of legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, in their emerging picks.
My Qalandars XI: McCullum, Fakhar, Delport, Akmal, Rizwan, Bravo, Tanvir, Zafar, Yasir, Tait, Mudassir
Peshawar Zalmi made headlines at the draft when Shahid Afridi announced Younis Khan as team mentor and batting coach. As Afridi waited for Younis to join him on the stage, he reminded Younis why he wasn’t picked by any team: “Yeh T20 hai, Younis Khan, jaldi karo” (This is T20, Younis Khan, hurry up!)
Afridi also announced Darren Sammy as the team’s new captain. The two-time World T20 winner
The Zalmis picked England ODI and T20 captain Eoin Morgan in the platinum category. Morgan’s England team mates Chris Jordan and Alex Hales are the other two new signings. The trio is not likely to be available during the latter half of the tournament because of national duty.
Jordan, who is rated highly by the Zalmi coach Mohammad Akram, was also drafted in the squad last year but had to withdraw because of national duty.Shaun Tait, who is now with Lahore Qalandars, replaced him last year.
Star all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan joins his Bangladeshi teammate Tamim Iqbal in the Zalmi squad. Shakib played for the Karachi Kings last year and, perhaps encouraged by the rise of Imad Wasim, the Kings decided to release Shakib.
The Zalmis have got a real good deal with local batting talents of Haris Sohail and Sohaib Maqsood in their ranks. It makes on wonder why Iftikhar Ahmed was also picked.
Afghanistan fans will be proud to see wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shehzad getting a run with the Zalmi squad. Shehzad, who calls himself MSD, is a crowd favourite and is likely to get more Zalmi fans to the stadium.
My Zalmi XI: Tamim, Akmal, Haris, Morgan, Sohaib, Shakib, Afridi, Sammy, Wahab, Hassan, Junaid
Quetta Gladiators have made only a few adjustments to an otherwise successful set-up.
Their biggest signing for the Gladiators is West Indian T20 skipper Carlos Brathwaite. Left-arm pacer Tymal Mills, a T20 specialist who can bowl at over 90 mph, is going to attract considerable interest. They also picked up hard-hitting all-rounder David Willey who has made a successful start to his England career.
The surprise pick of the day was Rovman Powell, a middle order batsman who has played for Jamiaca Tallawahs in CPL. Powell can also bowl medium pace.
It will be interesting to see if Asad Shafiq gets a run in the playing XI. Shafiq batted at number three in the recent National T20 cup and played a pivotal role in taking his team to the final, scoring 310
runs in 8 matches with an average of 51.7
My Gladiators XI: Wright, Shehzad, Pietersen, Shafiq, Sarfaraz, Nawaz, Brathwaite/Nabi, Noor Wali, Anwar/Gul, Mills, Babar
Islamabad United retained the full cap of 16 players from last year.
Sitting through the first 16 rounds of the draft must have been a pretty boring stretch for the United management but the supplementary picks were extremely well thought out.
Benn Duckett, who made his England Test debut today, is an explosive middle order batsman.
Shadab Khan, a leg-spin all-rounder who has played for Pakistan at the Under-19 and A levels continues his fast tracked journey in cricket. Fresh from a match-winning 100 for Pakistan A, Shadab will be hoping to get a chance in PSL season 2. Remember, he can only come in as a replacement and will not be an active member of the squad to begin with.
Saeed Ajmal, who was picked as a supplementary player last year, was bumped up into the main squad of 16.
Zohaib Khan, one of the brains behind Peshawar’s success in domestic cricket, is also a great pick who could potentially serve as a replacement for Imran Khalid if the need arises.
United will have one eye on what happens with Andre Russell’s doping case. The West Indian all-rounder was the tournament’s leading wicket-taker last year.
My United XI: Sharjeel, Watson, Haddin, Billings/Duckett, Misbah, Russell, Hussain, Imran, Rumman, Sami, Ajmal
Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars for the final, anyone?