The Pakistan Super League is always a great time for fans to wear their scouting hats on and assess as to which players outshine others when it comes to innate ability and consistency. We have seen some outstanding players emerge from the PSL in the past and this year promises to be no different. Whilst one sincerely hopes that the members of the Pakistan selection committee will all be keenly watching to see how the next generation of Pakistani cricketers perform on such a big platform, here are some of the players that I think will have a good season in the upcoming PSL.
By Taimoor Khan (17th February, 2018)
The current world's number 1 T20I batsman goes into the tournament in red-hot form with back to back hundreds in the semi-final and final matches of the Regional One-Day Cup. He flopped in the ODI leg of the recent Pakistan tour of New Zealand, but he was back in form during the T20Is and helped his side secure a 2-1 series win against the hosts. He is likely to play the anchor role for Karachi Kings and he must do it well if they want to succeed in the tournament. If he can bat out a good chunk of the 20 overs, the likes of Shahid Afridi and Ravi Bopara can add those value 30-40 runs down the order towards the end of the innings. One of his biggest criticisms is that he lacks a good power game, and he would be looking to shut his critics up by continuing to pile on the runs as he has, but he will need to do that at healthier strike rates than what we have seen so far. Expect him to be in the top five run-scorers by the end of the tournament.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Shaheen possesses qualities that many would say are necessities for a good fast bowler to have. The 17-year-old left-arm pacer is quick, hostile, tall and able to swing the ball both ways as seen in the recent Under-19 World Cup. The think tank at Lahore Qalandars would have been keenly watching his progress in that competition and should be extremely glad about his performances. He was the joint third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, and his best figures came against Ireland when he took 6 wickets for just 15 runs. He was showered with praise from the great Rahul Dravid who was in awe of his performances and thinks the tall left-armer can make it big for Pakistan in the future.
He has impressed spectators over the past couple of years with notable performances in the Inter-Region Under-19 tournament in 2017 where he was the highest wicket taker with 21 wickets in 8 games. He's no slouch with the bat either, as he scored 154 runs and was the 3rd highest run-scorer for FATA in that very tournament.
Shaheen is likely to open the bowling for Lahore Qalandars along with Mustafizur Rehman, both of whom are good wicket taking options. His out-swing has been his main weapon of choice in the past to pick up wickers, so left arm batsman should especially be wary of the 4th-5th stump line he will be aiming at. Expect him to star in the starting XI more often than not, as his height can be a troubling factor for many opposition batsmen. Hopefully he can be helpful down the order as well and score some quick runs when the need arises.
Sahibzada Farhan is a 21-year old right-handed batsman who has been making waves in the past couple of years due to his performances in Grade II and first-class cricket. His performances in the Pakistan Cup last year, where he hit a century and four fifties, made sure he would be in the running for a PSL spot. He was picked up by Islamabad United, where he is likely to replace the banned Sharjeel Khan and open the batting. A flamboyant opener who himself claimed that "If a ball is there to be hit, I will try to smash it out of the park", the opposition should be wary of his ability to get quick starts and provide the much needed impetus for Islamabad which they would need now that Sharjeel isn't available. He will be eyeing a spot in the Pakistani top order as well, as the team requires a quick-firing opener who accompanies Fakhar Zaman at the top of the order. If he can replicate the success that he has had in domestic cricket in the PSL, then he is surely one for the future.
Raza Hasan seemed like another young, immensely talented player thought to have spiraled down a path which many thought would limit his chances to play at the national level yet again. In 2015, he was handed a two-year ban because of doping charges, and the spinner once marked to be the prodigal successor of Saeed Ajmal seemed to have disappeared from the cricket scene.
2017 came by and he was signed up by NBP at the recent Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and ended the tournament with an impressive haul of 32 wickets in seven matches. He was able to pull off these figures right after coming back from his ban, which goes to show that form is temporary but class is definitely permanent.
Lahore Qalandars will be extremely pleased with his selection, as he will bolster their already strong bowling line up. He will be accompanied by Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah in the spin department from whom Raza can pick up invaluable tips as both of them are established world-class spinners. It would be interesting to see what bowling combination the Qalandars go with, as they have ample bowling options. I'm hopeful that he gets to play a good amount of games, and he would take every opportunity he can get to make his way back into the national side.
The city of Sialkot is synonymous with everything to do with sports. Footballs, cricket equipment, and cricket players seem to be the three most talked about things from one of Pakistan's most industrialised cities. The next sensation seems to be Amad Butt, a 22-year-old right-arm fast-bowling all-rounder who was selected in the very first PSL by Islamabad United. Able to hit the deck hard and bowl in the low to mid-140s region, he looks a promising player and is very handy with the bat as well. He will likely bat in the lower-middle order for Islamabad United and look to play small cameos with the bat. Expect him to get many more games in the PSL 3 as compared to past editions since United will be looking to fill the gap made by Shane Watson's departure with another all-rounder. Luckily, Amad will still have world class all-rounders of the likes of Andre Russel in the team for guidance. Expect them to bowl in tandem during the middle overs and look to pick up wickets.
The Sialkot quality player assembly line never rests, or so it seems. Tipped to be the "next batting hero for Pakistan" by Aaqib Javed, Saif Badar has much to live up to in the upcoming PSL. He has no shortage of cricketing experience at the junior level, as he has played an ample amount of cricket at the Under-16, District Under-19 and Regional Under-19 levels. The 19-year-old found a lot of success at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup as well where he scored 258 runs in 6 matches, the best knock arguably being the 75 not out he made against England. He was associated with Lahore Qalandars up until the upcoming PSL, where he will now be playing for Multan Sultans. He didn’t get any games last year but I expect him to get at least a couple of games with his new team. He was likely picked up because of Shoaib Malik, who has been his mentor since Badar made his List A debut for Punjab in 2016 and rates him highly. He can also bowl a couple of handy leg-breaks, so he might bowl a couple of overs since Multan lacks variety in their spin bowling department. He will have ample opportunity to absorb cricketing knowledge from his teammates, where players like Kumar Sangakkara, Imran Tahir and Kieron Pollard can provide a wealth of knowledge for young cricketers due to their experience.