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Despite what the Australians might say about the Big Bash, the Pakistan Super League is clearly the 2nd best Franchise T20 tournament in the world behind the Indian Premier League. With Global Stars aplenty, this edition of the PSL is shaping up as one of the best ever, and for the first time, all the games will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Here’s our team preview and tips for the tournament.
The current champions and understandable favourites. They have the current Pakistan captain and one of the finest batsmen in the world in Babar Azam. Unsurprisingly, he’s the favourite for top runscorer in the tournament as when he turns it on, he’s a run-scoring machine. However, Babar is coming off some very patchy form from the three internationals against South Africa where he managed to score only 49 runs in three games. They have plenty of Top T20 players to call on in Mohammad Nabi, Dan Christian, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir. They’ll be hard to stop.
Last year’s beaten finalists. I think they’ve got all the tools to get to the final again this year, and maybe one step further and win it. They’ve arguably got the best bowling attack I’ve ever come across in any T20 tournament. Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Dilbar Hussain and the top-ranked bowler in T20 cricket – Rashid Khan. They’ve also got two players who are proven at scoring runs at this level in Mohammad Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman. The biggest issue they have to overcome is the fact they’ve never won it before in five previous attempts. Have they got the bottle as some might say?
An ageing side, that I’m not having any love for at the moment. Chris Gayle, Faf du Plessis, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Dale Steyn all have serious miles on the clock. They’ll be hoping that Gayle still has some of his Universe Boss Magic left and can find them big runs in games, but he won’t be playing in the full tournament which will is a blow. The two international bowlers in Mohammad Hasnain and Usman Shinwari will be needed to defend some low totals. They didn’t make the playoffs last time, and my hopes aren’t high for them this time either.
They just about made the playoffs last year, and it will be touch and go for them again this year. They’ve lost their influential captain Darren Sammy, and there’s huge pressure on the middle order to find them runs, but my hopes for Ravi Bopara, Sherfane Rutherford and David Miller aren’t high. They’ll lean heavily on Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Wahab Riaz to get them out of some tight squeezes with the ball. Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal have a combined age of 78 and that is not something I’d be putting a huge amount of faith it.
They were the surprise package last time around and lost all their momentum when the tournament was halted due to Covid. Their team is a bit like a KFC Dinner: you wouldn’t want it every day, but it’s a lovely guilty pleasure now and then. They’ve made Mohammad Rizwan captain for this season which I think is a great move – he’s in scintillating form at the moment with the bat. In Usman Qadir they maybe possess a real X-Factor bowler who is a carbon copy of his father. Throw in Chris Lynn, Imran Tahir and Boom Boom Afridi, they might just have a winning formula.
If there was ever a team to be described as “All Duck or No Dinner”, it’s Islamabad. They were pretty awful last year only winning three matches. They’ve put all their eggs in the basket of Alex Hales this year. He’s an absolute enigma and will be best remembered for the moments he missed rather than what he achieved himself. He’s coming into the PSL off the back of a very good campaign with Sydney Thunder scoring 543 runs. Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan will need to take a lot of wickets to keep Islamabad competitive. I fear it won’t be enough though and the wooden spoon awaits again.
Top Tournament Runscorer – Mohammad Rizwan
Top Tournament Wicket Taker – Usman Qadir