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7 players to watch for in the PSL


Pakistan_Super_League_players_cricketThis year, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is expected to get bigger and better as cricket will be returning to Karachi. After the successful and smooth execution of the final at Lahore last year, the excitement of a game of cricket will be in Karachi after nearly a decade.

The league may still be in its nascent stages, more so compared to its counterparts, but the growth has been tremendous. It will be grander this year as, after just two seasons, it has expanded with the addition of a sixth team, the Multan Sultans. That means that this edition will be longer than before. The tournament will be played over 4 weeks and will consist of 34 matches, 10 more than the previous edition.

Moreover, the fact that there will be a few new international faces in the league along with some unseen domestic talents makes it one to watch. Expect the quality of cricket and the grandeur to be several notches higher this year, as the viewership has increased manifold, and it will finally be broadcast in India too.

As the T20 cricket crazy fans gear up for this year’s PSL, here is a glimpse of 7 players to watch:

Shaheen Shah Afridi

Pakistan’s newest pace sensation from Khyber first came into limelight after the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where he recorded the best ever figures (8/39) on debut. He backed that performance up with some stunning spells in the 2018 Under-19 World Cup in each match he played. The lanky left-arm pacer will be making his debut in the PSL for the Lahore Qalandars.

With incredible pace and variations, the left-armer has a history of doing well even before his U19 days. The 17-year-old has a graceful run-up and a settled, repeatable action. It has also been noted that he has terrific game awareness and his inswinger with the new ball is a specialty. He is an excellent player overall because of his fitness and his 6’6-height.

Interestingly, he is also handy with the bat in the lower order, and his big hitting ability is an added bonus. The Qalandars will not have to worry about batting depth if they play him.

Salman Irshad

Another domestic player that Lahore Qalandars have signed up is the first player from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), Salman Irshad. He has the ability to clock 150kmph and is expected to break the ‘100 miles per hour’ barrier, according to Shoaib Akhtar. The 22-year-old pace sensation may not have much experience, especially in T20 cricket, but that matters less with his raw talent. Irshad can expect success because the PSL values talent.

He came into the ranks last year during a talent hunt conducted by the Qalandars in PaK. Irshad was part of Qalandars’ Rising Stars squad that travelled to Australia for a quadrangular tournament. There, he impressed the locals so much that he was eventually signed up by New South Wales-based club Hawkesbury CC, to play second-grade cricket in Australia for the rest of the season. Irshad’s impressive performance, in which he picked up 22 wickets at an average of 12.95 in his first five-second division games, including a hat-trick, impressed Qalandar’s Coach Aaqib Javed.

Jofra Archer

After making headlines in the Big Bash League playing for Hobart Hurricanes with his all-round prowess, and becoming one of the overseas players to join the million-dollar-club at the IPL player auction with Rajasthan Royals splashing USD 1.125 million on him, Archer was picked up by the Quetta Gladiators. The Sussex all-rounder is an asset for any team in T20 cricket.

Before his BBL stint, where he took some stunning catches, effected some incredible run out opportunities and impressed with his death bowling skills, he had finished the 2017 County Championship season as Sussex’s leading wicket-taker in Division Two.

Ferocious bouncers coupled with yorkers brought him 15 wickets at an economy of 7.5 in the BBL. His added ability to swing the bat helped his strike rate stand at 137.93 by the end of the tournament. For Sussex, Archer has taken 89 first-class wickets in 20 matches and has a batting average of 37.86 with six half-centuries. With an effortless run-up and high action, the tall, 22-year-old bowler can become the genuine all-rounder for any team.

Sahibzada Farhan

If utilized, expect 21-year-old Sahibzada Farhan to do justice to his reputation of being a breakout star in the PSL. The Islamabad United debutant is known to bat fiercely and many see a bit of Virender Sehwag in him.

United picked Farhan as one of its two allotted Emerging Players, and in all likelihood, he is going to open the batting alongside Luke Ronchi. The Charsadda-born batsman has continued to grow as a player since he was picked up by United in the player draft. In a recent domestic 50-over tournament, he made 454 runs at an average of 57 for Peshawar. Of the eight innings, he scored 3 fifties and one century.

The youngster is cut out for T20 cricket and has been quietly knocking on national selectors' door with his consistent performances in the domestic circuit. If all goes well, we may well see him in the green jersey soon.

Hasan Ali

In his short career, Hasan Ali has become Pakistan’s bowling spearhead. At the age of 23. With a simple bowling action and multiple variations, he was the leading wicket-taker in ODIs in 2017 and a key factor in Pakistan’s triumph in the Champions Trophy where he was awarded the Man of the Series for his 13 wickets. His abilities are not confined to any one format though he is especially deadly with the white ball.

Presently, he has 62 wickets in 30 matches with 3 five-wicket hauls in ODIs and 19 wickets in 14 matches in T20Is, which indicate that he is an asset not only to the national side but any team that acquires his services. Recently, he also displayed his skills with the bat, which will assure Peshawar Zalmi they have a terrific fast bowler who is not a mug with the bat. Last year, he finished as the team's second-highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets from 11 matches

Shadab Khan

The young spinner is one of PSL success stories who will be talked about for years. 19-year-old Shadab Khan burst came into the limelight during the 2016/17 PSL season where he played for Islamabad United. His ability to take wickets while maintaining an excellent economy rate saw him talked up as the spinner that Pakistan needed. Interestingly, his ability with the bat was showcased in New Zealand only recently, making him a spin bowling-all-rounder and an even greater asset.

With 19 wickets in 13 matches at an economy rate of 6.41, along with a batting strike rate of 152.83, expect him to be a key player for Islamabad. Now known as one of the most potent bowlers in T20 cricket, he has one of the best disguised googlies along with his regular leg spin. If that is not enough, he is an exceptional fielder and is regularly seen taking spectacular diving catches. He is reminiscent of the role Ravindra Jadeja played for India, but may surpass him soon.

Rashid Khan

The Afghan leg-spinner’s rise and dominance in cricket will be a story that will be told by every modern-cricket lover. This year, he will be making his debut for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL, after proving himself in other T20 leagues including IPL, BBL and BPL. Before the PSL, he was retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs. 9 Cr, but it is not surprising since he has become one of the most sought after players in the world. He was the Associate Cricketer of the Year in 2017 and is currently ranked second in the ICC T20I bowler list.

He is also an athletic fielder and is handy as he can quick runs at the bottom. In just the 34 matches he has played, the associate cricketer has picked up an alarming 76 wickets at an economy rate of 3.91. In the recently concluded BBL season, his debut was a memorable one where he was leading the wickets chart for a while with 18 wickets in 11 innings with a miserly economy of 5.65 and best figures of 3/20 for the Adelaide Strikers. With his addition to the PSL, expect some batsmen to be left baffled by his special googly.


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