Kings or Qalandars: Which PSL 2017 team is the strongest?

Take a look at how well the PSL teams rack up this year.
Published February 8, 2017

Lahore Qalandars

Foreign players: Brendon McCullum, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, James Franklin, Cameron Delport, Grant Elliot, Chris Green

Key Pakistani players: Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Rizwan

Lahore made headlines by signing up former Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum. The Big Mac, as he is popularly known, has been appointed as Lahore’s captain and mentor for this season.

Getting the leaders right

One of the main reasons why the Qalandars failed to make it big last year was weak leadership. Azhar Ali is hardly at home as a T20 player, let alone being a captain. With the leadership sorted, the Qalandars have also made some exciting changes to their squad to sort their other problem from last year: bowling. Their Director Cricket, Aqib Javed, looked like the right person to get the bowlers to deliver.

The trade with Karachi Kings gave them Sohail Tanvir in return for Chris Gayle. Tanvir who is a bit of a T20 globetrotter has bolstered the bowling stocks of the Qalandars. Aqib Javed had a role to play in bringing Tanvir in to the Pakistan team back in 2007 and it looks like the bond is still strong.

The bowlers

He is joined by the spin duo of Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah, both looking set to make their PSL debuts. The Qalandars have also drafted in young Aussie off-spinner Chris Green who came in as a replacement for Shaun Tait. Green plays for the Sydney Thunder in the Australian Big Bash League (BBL) where Paddy Upton, who also happens to be Lahore’s coach, coaches him. The fourth spinner is Usman Qadir, son of Abdul Qadir.

The foreign player quota is completed by Kiwi all-rounders James Franklin and Grant Elliott, explosive England opener Jason Roy, and last year’s star find Cameron Delport.

The batsmen

On the batting front, Qalandars will again be looking at Umar Akmal to lead the local batting talent. Akmal was last year’s highest-run scorer of the tournament with 335 runs at a phenomenal strike rate of 157. Fakhar Zaman, a left-handed top order batsman is another exciting modern-day prospect. Azhar Ali has been given another T20 lifeline and this might be the only decision that affects their combination. Remember; they traded Sohaib Maqsood with Peshawar Zalmi who could add value at number 6.

Ones to watch out for

Two young players to watch out from the Qalandars squad are Saif Badar and Ghulam Mudassir. Saif represented Pakistan U-19 in the 2016 World Cup where he was the team’s second-highest run-scorer. Ghulam Mudassir, a left-arm pacer from Karachi has impressed many people with his pace at such a young age. He also toured with Pakistan A and he will look to develop himself as a bowler under the watchful eyes of Aqib Javed.

Except for Jason Roy, who is likely to leave around the Feb 20 for national duty, the Qalandars will have a settled team throughout.

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Karachi Kings

Foreign players: Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakkara, Kieron Pollard, Mahela Jayawardene, Ryan McLaren, Ravi Bopara

Key Pakistani players: Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Amir, Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Sohail Khan

Nothing seemed to click for the Kings in season one. It came to a point where skipper Shoaib Malik decided to quit captaincy just before the tournament ended. Imad Wasim, who went on to become a bit of a T20 star for Pakistan after PSL, also had a disappointing campaign. Barring England all-rounder Ravi Bopara, who was player of the tournament, no one from the Kings really stepped up to the challenge.


This year, things seem to have changed. Rashid Latif has joined Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur in the think-tank as Director Cricket. The Kings also have the services of newly appointed Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood.

In a surprise move, the Kings traded Chris Gayle from Lahore Qalandars and gave them seasoned T20 bowler Sohail Tanvir in return. Gayle may or may not provide firepower at the top of the order – a gamble that did not work well for the Qalandars last season.

The ranks

While last year, Ravi Bopara stepped in as captain replacing Shoaib Malik, this year the responsibility is with Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakarra. Gayle, Sangakkara and Imad Wasim were teammates for Jamaica Tallawahs at the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and with senior pros like Shoaib Malik, Ravi Bopara, Kieron Pollard and Mahela Jayawardene joining the ranks, the Kings have a pretty diverse core of leaders. South African all-rounder Ryan McLaren completes the quote of foreign players.

Babar Azam will be raring to perform for his new franchise. Islamabad United preferred to retain Khalid Latif and gave up Azam in a trade with the Kings. The young batsman from Lahore has been in excellent ODI form over the past few months and the PSL will be an important stepping-stone for his career.

New picks

The Kings bumped down spinner Usama Mir to supplementary picks, instead, picking two local openers in Khurram Manzoor and Shahzaib Hasan in the main squad of 16.

Watch out for young Hasan Mohsin, the Pakistan U-19 all-rounder who was the team’s highest run-scorer and wicket-taker at the 2016 World Cup.

Like Lahore Qalandars, the Kings too have a settled team with no scheduled departures midway through the tournament. One thing that works in their favour better than the Qalandars is the local player leadership core.

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Peshawar Zalmi

Foreign players: Darren Sammy, Eoin Morgan, Chris Jordan, Marlon Samuels, Shakib al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Samit Patel, Dawid Malan

Key Pakistani players: Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Akmal, Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali, Sohaib Maqsood, Haris Sohail,

If you are wondering why Zalmi have so many foreign signings then that might also be why Zalmi should be worried about their team. Morgan and Jordan are expected to leave around Feb 20 for national duty. Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan are expected to arrive mid-February and leave end-February. Samit Patel and Dilshan will then be able to replace these two Bangladeshi players.

Captain Sammy

The biggest news at this year’s draft was perhaps Shahid Afridi voluntarily giving up captaincy of Peshawar Zalmi to Darren Sammy. A two-time World Cup winner, Sammy is an inspirational captain who will certainly add more tactical nuance to the way the team operates.


Zalmi have great bowling strength with Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Chris Jordan, Hasan Ali, Imran Khan Jr., Mohammad Asghar, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Shakib al Hasan. That’s plenty of options to choose from!


They will rely on Marlon Samuels, England batsman Dawid Malan, former Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal to carry them through in terms of batting. Their efforts will be supplemented by Morgan and Tamim Iqbal in between.

This tournament will also mark the comeback of Haris Sohail to competitive cricket. Sohaib Maqsood, another promising yet unfulfilled batting talent, will also join him. Maqsood was traded for Aamir Yamin with Lahore Qalandars.

While Zalmi are strong on paper, the constant chopping and changing of foreign players is not an ideal situation to be in. What works for them well, however, is the presence of experienced Pakistani players who can form a Pakistan XI of their own.

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Quetta Gladiators

Foreign players: Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Tymal Mills, Rilee Roussow, Nathan McCullum, Thisara Perera, Mahmudullah Riyadh.

Key Pakistani players: Sarfaraz Ahmed, Umar Gul, Ahmad Shehzad, Umar Amin, Anwar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Zulfiqar Babar, and Mohammad Nawaz

They won everyone’s hearts last year and provided two of the most entertaining matches of the tournament. This year, the Gladiators have made only a few adjustments to their team.

Pick and drop

Carlos Brathwaite, the West Indian all-rounder who shot to fame at last year’s World T20 was a star signing but he was forced to withdraw due to domestic cricket commitments. In a rather confusing chain, here is what happened next: Moeen Ali (who replaced Brathwaite) backed out for a trip to Mecca, and was replaced by Brad Hodge, who also backed out due to personal commitments. Mahmudullah Riyadh, the Bangladeshi all-rounder, was the final choice and, till the filing of this post, was still very much a part of the team.

England T20 pacer Tymal Mills is an exciting pick who will team up with Umar Gul and Anwar Ali to make up the pace attack. Gladiators have the services of seasoned Pakistani spinner Zulfiqar Babar who will be supported by young gun Mohammad Nawaz and Kiwi spinner Nathan McCullum.

All-rounders aplenty

It is unclear when, and if, Mohammad Nabi will be available to play for the Gladiators. If he does participate, he will certainly add substantial weight to the line-up.

The team is clearly built around all-rounders with six of them in the squad. Ahmad Shehzad has been in red-hot form recently and along with Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Rilee Roussow and Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Gladiators are looking to offer a formidable batting core.

Looking ahead

It will be interesting to see if Asad Shafiq gets a run in the playing XI. Shafiq batted at number three in the National T20 cup and played a pivotal role in taking his team to the final, scoring 310 runs in 8 matches with an average of 51.7.

Sarfraz, too, will have to be on his A-game when it comes to captaincy since McCullum, Sangakkara, Sammy and Misbah are all very seasoned leaders. Pakistan’s recent T20 success under Sarfraz’s captaincy will definitely give him some inspiration.

The Gladiators have roped in former Pakistani all-rounder Abdur Razzaq as their bowling coach.

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Islamabad United

Foreign players: Shane Watson, Samuel Badree, Brad Haddin, Sam Billings, Dwayne Smith, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn,

Key Pakistani players: Misbah ul Haq, Mohammad Sami, Saeed Ajmal, Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Irfan

Last year’s champions decided not to tinker with their squad too much. They were the only team to retain the full quota of 16 players. Therefore, there were only a few additions to the squad. Andre Russell’s doping ban forced a late change with Steven Finn joining the team. This makes sense given Russell’s value as a bowler to the team last year – he was the highest-wicket taker. Imagine, for a second, Mohammad Irfan sharing the new ball with Steven Finn. Opposing teams might not be happy at the prospect of facing the two tall pacers bowling in tandem.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Zohaib Khan, who played for the Qalandars last year, joins United this year. He is one of the brains behind Peshawar’s success in domestic cricket and will, more or less, play the same role as Imran Khalid.

Shadab Khan, a leg-spin all-rounder who has played for Pakistan Under-19 and A looks like another exciting young talent. Shadab will also get to learn from West Indian spinner Samuel Badree and Pakistani star Saeed Ajmal.

A more self-assured Sam Billings will now look to impress not only his management but also prove a point to his critics. His experience with Delhi Daredevils in IPL and with the England national team has helped him to develop his game.

Shane Watson’s PSL journey was cut short last year because of an injury and he will be desperate to go the full distance this time around. Needless to mention, Watson’s role as an all-rounder becomes all the more critical in the absence of Andre Russell.

Dwayne Smith joined United as a replacement player last year and scored two fifties in four matches. This year, he is a part of the main squad.

Explosive England middle order batsman Ben Duckett is another player to watch out for this season.

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