Ahead of the 2020 version of the Pakistan Super League – the fifth edition of the tournament and also known as PSL 5 or HBL PSL 2020 – TSZ analyses the prospects of each of the six participating teams. After a thrilling tournament last year which saw Quetta Gladiators beat Peshawar Zalmi in the final by eight wickets to claim the glory, the six teams are ready for battle once again.
Quetta Gladiators (champions in 2019)
Last season’s winners come up against two-time winners Islamabad United in the opening match to kick off PSL 5 in what should be a blockbuster to launch the new campaign. The Gladiators have a strong blend of experience in Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shane Watson along with youthful talent with local pace bowlers Mohammad Hasnain and Naseem Shah two of their headliners.
They will count on Ben Cutting, Tymal Mills, Jason Roy and Fawad Ahmed as their overseas stars while Zahid Mehmood will deputise for West Indian pace bowler Keemo Paul, who does not arrive in Pakistan until the second week of March. The form and fitness of Mills will be a major concern for the team as they hope his body can stand up to the rigours of the tournament, but their bowling unit looks strong on paper if the two teen pace bowlers can produce the goods.
The inclusion of Jason Roy is particularly exciting for the team and gives them an X-factor at the top of the order along with Watson, and they will hope he can lead them to glory. They will need their local batsman like Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfaraz to contribute heavily if they are to retain their crown.
Peshawar Zalmi (runners-up in 2019)
Peshawar Zalmi will once again be led by West Indian star Darren Sammy for another campaign and they will be looking to continue their strong form in the tournament having reached the last three finals. Zalmi won the tournament back in 2017 but have finished as runner-up in the last two editions so they will be desperate to go one better this time around.
They lack depth in their bowling attack but they arguably possess the best strike duo in the tournament in Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz who took a staggering 25 and 17 wickets respectively in their 13 matches last year. Those two will be fundamental to their hopes once again here while they will hope that others can step up to contribute which could make the difference between success and failure.
Liam Dawson returns to the team once again as one of their overseas stars as he is joined by new signings Tom Banton, Lewis Gregory and Liam Livingstone as they have invested heavily in an English core. They also have Carlos Brathwaite for the first two weeks until he is replaced by Kieron Pollard so they have a number of key overseas all-rounders to add some serious depth with bat and ball. The signing of prodigy Tom Banton has really captured the imagination and he will partner Imam-ul-Haq at the top of the order to add some dynamite to Imam’s anchor role.
The key signing which may well have gone under the radar however is the arrival of Shoaib Malik who has joined from Multan Sultans. His form in T20 leagues around the world in the last year has been superb, and he can play a big role in another strong campaign here.
Islamabad United (3rd in 2019)
Islamabad United could only manage a third-place finish last year but they remain the most successful franchise in PSL history as they are the only team to have won the tournament twice in 2016 and 2018. Last year’s failure by their high standards has also seen a change at the top as Misbah-ul-Haq replaces Dean Jones as head coach, and that has led to a number of further changes in personnel.
From their batch of overseas players from 2019, only English batsman Phil Salt and Kiwi Luke Ronchi has been retained as Ian Bell, Cameron Delport, Chadwick Walton, Wayne Parnell and Alex Hales have all departed. Colin Ingram, Colin Munro, Dawid Malan and Dale Steyn have joined United for their 2020 campaign and they look to offer them a real strong core to the team. The fitness of Steyn will be key to their hopes of success which they will have to manage carefully.
Local star Shadab Khan will captain the side and he will have to be at his best and they will need big contributions from Husssain Talat, Rumman Raees and Faheem Ashraf – the latter whom took 21 wickets last year and was outstanding with the ball. Faheem and Shadab were their only two players to take more than eight wickets however and they will need more than that if they are to win a third PSL title.
Karachi Kings (4th in 2019)
There is plenty of pressure on Karachi Kings to challenge for honours this year after four average campaigns which have seen them finish third twice and fourth on the other two occasions. They have brought Dean Jones in at the helm to lead them as head coach, while they will have high expectations on star man Babar Azam who is the leading T20 batsman in the ICC World Rankings.
Along with Babar, they possess one of the strongest sets of local players as they have skipper Imad Wasim, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Aamir Yamin and Mohammad Rizwan in their ranks, and the likes of Babar, Imad and Amir will have to make major contributions.
The signing of Alex Hales and Cameron Delport gives them a formidable top three along with Babar while Chadwick Walton and Iftikhar and Rizwan offer strong options in the middle order. They do however lack a top quality all-rounder or two which most of the other teams possess which will only add to the pressure on the batsmen and bowlers to produce the goods. They also look a top class bowler light with little depth outside of Chris Jordan, Imad Wasim and Amir which has to be a concern coming into the tournament.
Multan Sultans (5th in 2019)
Multan Sultans have finished fifth in both of their PSL campaigns to date and they will have a big task on their hands if they are to make the step and challenge at the business end of the tournament. They have a win ratio of just 36.84% and they have recruited Andy Flower as their new head coach as they look to spark an upturn in form in PSL 5.
Flower has recruited well with Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara and Fabian Allen providing quality as all-rounders which will really give them outstanding depth with bat and ball. In addition to that trio, Rilee Rossouw has moved to the Sultans while they can also count on Imran Tahir and James Vince which sees them form one of the stronger sets of overseas players in the tournament.
The real weakness however lies in their local players as they have unquestionably the weakest group in PSL 5. Led by Shan Mahmood, they will rely heavily on veteran Shahid Afridi but that is asking a lot of the 45-year-old who is unlikely to be able to carry the team. They need their overseas stars to really produce the goods, but the lack of wicket-takers will likely cost them and it is highly unlikely they will make a serious challenge for the play-off places unless a lot goes in their favour.
Lahore Qalandars (6th in 2019)
The Lahore outfit have the worst all-time record in the competition having won just 11 of their 36 matches in the four previous editions of the PSL and that has seen them finish bottom in all four campaigns so far. They boasted AB de Villiers last season yet despite having Mr. 360° in their ranks, they finished bottom of the pile and they desperately need to improve and get an early win under their belts this year.
They fielded 26 different players across their 10 games last year such was their poor form but will be hoping the same will not occur this time around. They made a big splash to make Australian big-hitting opener Chris Lynn their big-name signing and they will be hoping he can make a major impact although he is likely to come up against a lot of spin which may cause his downfall. Lynn is joined by Aussie compatriot Ben Dunk who enjoyed an excellent Mzansi Super League campaign but an indifferent Big Bash along with a string of all-rounders.
Dane Vilas is the latest player to join the ranks as the veteran has been signed as a replacement player and he could prove to be a shrewd signing, while Samit Patel and David Wiese need to contribute with the bat as their batting has been their major weakness in the last couple of seasons.
They possess some quality options with the ball as local trio Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Shinwari and Big Bash revelation Haris Rauf form a fearsome trio but they will need their batsmen to perform significantly better than they did in 2019 to give their bowling attack something to work with. The pressure is firmly on Lynn and company, and unless they really can fire on all cylinders, another struggle is on the cards.