Preview of Lahore Qalandars' campaign in the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League as they look to AB de Villiers to rejuvenate their floundering fortunes.
By ARK Rafay (9th February, 2019)
Lahore Qalandars is one of the most loved teams in the PSL but their performances in past editions of the tournament have been far from satisfactory. In the first edition, they had some good T20 players in the likes of Chris Gayle, Umar Akmal, DJ Bravo and the then Pakistan national team and Lahore Qalandars captain Azhar Ali. The team managed to win only two games that year and ended up at the bottom of the points table. Umar Akmal was the only player from Lahore Qalandars who performed exceptionally well as he ended up being the highest run-scorer of the tournament, while Chris Gayle proved to be a complete failure while DJ Bravo got injured.
The second and third editions weren't too different from the first, except for the captain who was now Brendon McCullum. Whilst players like Chris Gayle and Azhar Ali were released after the first edition, there wasn’t that much improvement in Qalandars' fortunes with Brendon McCullum and Umar Akmal not providing as much value to their team as was expected. Whilst the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Yasir Shah, Sunil Narine and Anton Devcich provided quality and depth to the line-up, the fact is that Lahore Qalandars had to face many challenges due their largely imbalanced squad. They did show some promise in the third edition but still ended up at the bottom of the points table, once again.
While some say it was Brendon McCullum's overly aggressive captaincy that brought tears in the eyes of Lahore Qalandars fans, one could also argue that they were simply unlucky. 2019 could be different, though, as this year they've gone all out and have signed some big names. They seem to have found just the right balance and their squad is arguably the best it’s ever been.
StrengthsTop-order - Lahore Qalandars have one of the greatest T20 top-order batsman in AB de Villiers. Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez will be expected to play crucial roles at the top of the order. They also have players like Sohail Akhtar, Agha Salman and Anton Devcich who all played roles in previous editions of the tournament.All-rounders - Qalandars have a good group of all-rounders this time around and they have genuine variety. In the spin all-rounders department, they have their captain Mohammad Hafeez alongside the likes of Anton Devcich, Haris Sohail and Agha Salman. In addition, players like Carlos Brathwaite, Corey Anderson and David Wiese are some of the best T20 pace-bowling all-rounders and Lahore will be stronger with these players in their ranks.Spinners - More than half of the PSL will be played in the UAE and it has in the past proved to be a paradise for spin bowlers. With the likes of Hasan Khan, Yasir Shah and Sandeep Lamichhane in their line-up, Lahore Qalandars' spin options are better than most of their rivals.WeaknessesWicket-keeper - Lahore Qalandars have had a problem in this department in the past and they might have to face this issue once again. They've signed three wicket-keepers this season in the forms of Brendon Taylor, Gauhar Ali and Umair Masood. Out of these three, Brendon Taylor is the most complete batsman and in this day and age in the T20 format, you need wicket-keepers who are not just specialists but who can bat as well. As Brendon Taylor is a foreign player, he may find it hard to get a spot in the playing XI with the likes of de Villiers, Brathwaite, Anderson, Lamichanne and Devcich likely to be higher in the pecking order. Both Umair Masood and Gauhar Ali don't have a good domestic record with the bat but could surprise all in their first appearances in the PSL.Players to watch out forAB de Villiers is obviously the first player who other teams will look out for. His successful international career speaks for itself. His amazing hitting ability in any part of the ground will hurt any team if he gets going, and if he does get going then no one can stop him. Fakhar Zamanhas proven to be very successful so far in the PSL and will be looking to replicate his past performances this year also. His aggressive style of play and no fear attitude has brought him great success and on his day, he can destroy any bowling line-up.Mohammad Hafeez, the Professor, is the captain of Lahore Qalandars and is in good form, if you were to go by his batting in South Africa. He's a complete package as he can bat, bowl and is an able captain. With his current form, he can make it to any PSL team with his bowling or batting alone. He'll be the glue holding the Lahore batting together this year. Shaheen Shah Afridi is young, energetic and calm and quick. So far, he's proven to be a diamond for both his international and PSL teams as he showed by his bowling in South Africa. He can bowl at any stage of the game and has the intelligence and ability to turn the game on its head. Much more will be expected of him this time around and given his supreme talent, he is unlikely to disappoint.VerdictLahore Qalandars on paper appear to be the team that could well be first time finalists. But given their history in the PSL, there will be a lot of scepticism about how far they can actually go. All that could change with Mohammad Hafeez at the helm. He has a good captaincy record and with a squad full of players like AB de Villiers, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Corey Anderson, Brathwaite and Sandeep Lamichanne, the new Lahore Qalandars captain may not have a hard time guiding his side to the finals, and anything can happens once it reaches that point.SquadFakhar Zaman, AB de Villiers, Mohammad Hafeez ©, Yasir Shah, Carlos Brathwaite, Anton Devcich, Rahat Ali, Sandeep Lamichhane. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Agha Salman, Sohail Akhtar, Hasan Khan, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Imran, Umair Masood, Brendan Taylor, Gauhar Ali, Aizaz Cheema, Harris Rauf, Saad Ali. Cover: Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese