Let the PSL begin!

Written by ceditor

The premier cricket tournament of Pakistan is back and this time, it is going to be bigger, better and more interesting than the previous editions. The ninth Pakistan Super League is all set to begin today, with a match featuring defending champions Lahore Qalandars and former champions Islamabad United. What’s interesting about the match-up is the fact that both the teams have managed to win the PSL trophy on more than one occasion, and would be hoping that this time they manage to make it to three victories.

Pakistan Super League 2024, also known as PSL 9, will be played between February 17th and March 18th in four major cities of Pakistan — Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi — where six teams featuring the best players from across the globe will battle it out for supremacy. Established by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in 2015, this franchise Twenty20 cricket league will first follow the double round-robin league format, followed by the playoffs, which will decide the two finalists who will clash in the grand finale on March 18th, in Karachi.

Karachi’s National Bank Cricket Arena will not just be the venue for the final, but also the playoffs and a total number of 11 matches will be played at the venue. Rawalpindi and Lahore will host nine matches each, whereas fans in Multan will also be able to watch their favourite players in action five times.

What makes this tournament crucial for Pakistan’s national cricket team is the fact that it will give the selectors a chance to check out the best players in the country for the T20 World Cup to be played later in the year. They will not only be able to select the best players for the mega event, but it will also give the players a chance to show their skills as a potential candidate for the tournament.

Six teams, six contenders!

Since 2016, cricket fans in the region have been treated to the best action through the PSL. Only two teams have been able to clinch the trophy twice — Islamabad United in 2016 and 2018, and Lahore Qalandars in 2022 and 2023 — whereas Peshawar Zalmi (2017), Quetta Gladiators (2019), Karachi Kings (2020) and Multan Sultans (2021) have managed to win it once.

Every team in this event will play a total number of 10 matches in the first round, whereas the top four will go to the playoffs, which will consist of one qualifier, two eliminators and a grand finale. The top two teams will clash in the qualifier match, and whichever emerges victorious will reach the final, whereas the loser of that match will take on the winner of the first eliminator, in the second eliminator.

The winner of the second eliminator — played between the third and fourth-ranked team at the points table — will qualify for the final, while the team that loses the first qualifier will go empty-handed. Since they won the last two editions, Lahore Qalandars seems to be the favourite of most people this year, however, other teams are also in the running and have an impressive pool of players to select their team from.

Each team can field a maximum of four players from countries other than Pakistan, which makes it all the more competitive for the youngsters in the squad, who get to share the field and the dressing room with the foreign players.

Let’s take a look at each team and assess their strengths and weaknesses ahead of what seems to be a busy month for cricket fanatics and discuss their prominent players, who might wreak havoc with the bat, the ball or both.

Lahore Qalandars —defending champions

Captain: Shaheen Afridi

Batters to look out for: Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Sahibzada Farhan and Bhanuka Rajapaksa

Bowlers to look out for: Zaman Khan, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Imran

Import to look out for: Rassie van der Dussen, David Wiese, Sikandar Raza and Shai Hope

Young players to look out for: Tayyab Tahir and Syed Faridoun

They have not let any other team win the trophy for the last two years, and under Shaheen Shah Afridi, they hope to make it three out of three this year. Lahore Qalandars’ fortunes changed when Shaheen Shah Afridi was made their captain; before his elevation to captaincy, the team ended the first four editions in the last position, reached the final in the fifth PSL, and ended in second last position in the sixth edition. Since then, they have won two finals and the credit for that goes to Shaheen Shah Afridi and his band of brothers.

The team not only has two openers who play for the national team — Fakhar Zaman and Abdullah Shafique — but can also boast of Haris Rauf and Zaman Khan in the bowling line-up, who have won many a match for them. With the incredible South African van der Dussen, and the impressive West Indian Shai Hope joining hands with the all-round skills of Sikandar Raza and David Wiese, from Zimbabwe and Namibia respectively, they have a top-class unit all set to continue their domination at the top.

Although Tayyab Tahir is no longer a youngster, he has not been given many chances to represent Pakistan. One hopes that he can fulfil his potential this year with Lahore Qalandars, who would want him to come out all guns blazing. The team will be playing without their ace spinner Rashid Khan, who is nursing an injury, but would be banking on the left-arm chinaman bowler Syed Faridoun, who has shown that he can bamboozle any batting line-up with his wizardry.

Umair Alavi – Dawn, Young World

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