Preview of Quetta Gladiators' Pakistan Super League campaign in 2019 as the two-time runners-up look to better their previous displays by clinching a title on the fourth attempt.
By mak36 (11th February, 2019)
Quetta Gladiators have been one of the most consistent sides since PSL1, having reached the finals in the first two editions and losing in the playoffs by one run in the third. Despite this, Quetta’s squad has once again gone under the radar when it comes to discussing likely winners of PSL4. In some sense that’s understandable. The signings they made this year that got the biggest press were for all the wrong reasons; the names Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Sohail Tanvir leave a lot to be desired for many. Add Anwar Ali to that mix and you can see why so many fans are disappointed. But look beyond that and there is a strong case to be made for putting them as one of the front runners…
StrengthsFor PSL4, there has been a clear change in approach from QG. The first two seasons QG reached the finals but lost. The first PSL final they lost fair and square, but the PSL2 final and PSL3 knock out games were hosted in Pakistan and QG were the team hurt the most when it came to losing players for the matches in Pakistan. This particularly affected QG's batting, as most their foreign picks were batsmen (Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson e.t.c). QG (once bitten, twice shy as it were) have finally learnt their lesson and this season have avoided putting all their eggs in one basket. That’s to say, this year they have picked a more "balanced" squad with their home players forming the core of the team (in both bowling and batting) with the foreign players then adding value on top of that. In other words, they have taken the IU approach of young Pakistani players forming the nucleus of the team. A sure recipe for success (and of gaining love from fans in the process!) In essence, QG are sick of being perennial runner ups and blame it on their over-reliance on foreign players. This year, having picked a squad bursting to the seams with young Pakistani talent it’s fair to say they have succeeded in their mission of strengthening their domestic bench strength. So much so, I would go so far as saying QG (along with LQ) had the best draft picks as they have overhauled their squad and addressed their main weaknesses from previous years. The question now is whether they will select their best XI... WeaknessesQG's biggest problem is themselves. In the first two editions QG gained a lot of goodwill from fans, including from supporters of other PSL sides, because of their underdog status and the fact they gave a platform for young domestic players to shine. That goodwill disappeared in PSL3 when the likes of Saud Shakeel were left to warm the bench whilst seniors unsuited to T20 were given repeated chances to fail. This ‘senior’ strategy not only hurt QG’s performances but left many fans with a bitter taste in their mouth. If QG repeat the mistake of blindly playing "experienced" domestic players (e.g. Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali) ahead of the young talent in their squad then QG will not only hurt their chances but also lose fans in the process. Conversely, if they actually give the young talent in their squad opportunities and play an XI similar to the below then QG will not only maximise their chances of winning PSL4 but they will also regain the love of fans. Playing XI: Shane Watson (F), Ahsan Ali, Saud Shakeel, Umar Akmal, Danish Aziz, Dwayne Bravo (F)/Rilee Rossouw (F), Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sunil Narine (F), Mohammad Nawaz/Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Hasnain/Ghulam Mudassar (E), Fawad Ahmed (F).Players to watch out forAlong with IU, QG boast the best young domestic talent and that includes their emerging picks Mohammad Hasnain and Ghulam Mudassar. It’s a great pity Naseem Shah is injured but he will most likely be part of QG’s squad in PSL5. In terms of batting, Ahsan Ali is a very smart pick by QG; here’s hoping he is given plenty of game time. The middle order strength is excellent with Saud Shakeel and Danish Aziz more than capable of building a platform from which QG can launch in the later overs. Sarfaraz Ahmed is a very astute T20 captain, particularly adept at using spinners to squeeze the run-rate in the middle overs. He will need to be at his best to get the most out of QG’s bowling attack. VerdictQG this season (i) have gone back to their roots and invested in young domestic players and (ii) copied IU's template of making young Pakistani players the core of their squad. The end result is a strong and balanced squad, with plenty of depth. QG's bowling attack will offer a diet of spin to the opposition, with the pacers playing a supporting role; a strategy well suited to the UAE/Pakistan. Whatever happens in terms of results it’s great to see another PSL franchise investing in young, domestic talent. That can only be good news for PSL and for Pakistan. Here’s hoping it’s a strategy QG are able to execute this season as on paper they have one of the strongest squads (along with IU). Put it this way, if QG play an XI similar to the above line up then I would back them to finally shake off the tag “always the bridesmaid, never the bride…”SquadSarfaraz Ahmed ©, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Nawaz, Rilee Rossouw, Umar Akmal, Fawad Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Asghar, Danish Aziz, Ahsan Ali, Ghulam Mudassar, Mohammad Hasnain, Harry Gurney, Ahmed Shehzad, Azam Khan, Jalat Khan, Mohammad Irfan jr.