It's no secret that the real motivation behind the launch of Pakistan Super League (PSL) was money. The Pakistan Cricket Board's coffers were empty due to its inability to hold a home series in Pakistan, and the PSL was the perfect remedy.
But, even if only at a superficial level, one of PSL's side quests was to unearth new talent and/or give a change to the dead weights who would've otherwise been lost in PCB's infamous talent black hole. Points in case: the tainted Sharjeel Khan's relaunch in PSL 1, or the discovery of Shadab Khan in 2017.
The likes of Rumman Raees, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Asghar and Fakhar Zaman are some more PSL products. And if the same trend holds, it's safe to presume PSL 2018 will also contribute something to the national team's talent pool.
In Dawn.com's opinion, these are the five primary candidates who could be the breakout stars of PSL 2018:
Twenty-one-year-old Sahibzada Farhan would be a fixture on almost every list of potential breakout stars, no matter who compiles it. The Islamabad United batter holds the bat real low and has a bit of Virender Sehwag about him; although the Charsadda-born isn't as wristy and seems to favour the on side more.
United picked Farhan as one of its two allotted Emerging Players, and chances are that he is going to open the batting alongside Luke Ronchi.
The youngster has all the makings of an explosive T20 batsman and has quietly been knocking on national selectors' doors on the basis of his consistent performances in the domestic circuit. Don't be surprised if Farhan has a national cap by the time the West Indies depart these shores in April.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Over the years, Pakistan has had more than its share of left-arm pacers but few have had a more graceful run-up and natural release than the Lahore Qalandars' lanky 17-year-old pacer, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Several with that famous last name have tried to live up to the man who made it famous, but so far none have come close. Judging purely on Shaheen's early promise, he may just be the next big Afridi to make it big.
At first look, the 6'6 Shaheen seems a better fit for the longer game, but if Mohammad Irfan can fill a role in T20, there's no reason Shaheen can't — at the very least — match that.
A classy southpaw, 22-year-old Saud Shakeel occupies a spot on the Quetta Gladiators roster. At first glance, he looks like a cross between legendary openers Saeed Anwar and Amir Sohail, while his premeditated shuffle in the crease might evoke the memory of a certain Salman Butt.
While those certainly are lofty comparisons, few can deny that Shakeel is a natural talent — a first-class average of 43.17 and an even better list A average of 47.58 are testament to that. Granted, the youngster has been found wanting in the T20 format so far, but he has time and opportunities on his side to atone that teeny-tiny blemish on his otherwise impressive CV.
Another product of Karachi's famed Rahid Latif Academy, all-rounder Mohsin is the epitome of a modern T20 cricketer. He can bat, he can bowl, he can field; but, and more importantly, he can think and improvise.
Mohsin is what some may define as the jugaroo (innovative) cricketer — the classic trait of a cricketer raised in Karachi.
Although not a physical specimen by any means, Mohsin still has the ability to hit it out of the park. At the same time, he is also hard-working enough to do the grind of picking single and doubles in the middle overs.
Mohsin is also one of the lucky few who've been picked by their hometown franchises. If he helps the Kings to the big final in Karachi, even the most typical of Pakistani selectors would be unable to keep him out of the national fold.
For some reason, the idyllic valley of Kashmir has never produced a notable cricketer. But Lahore Qalandars' Salman Irshad could be the barrier-breaker to this unwanted legacy.
The 22-year-old pacer is still very green and has only played a few T20 matches in his young career, but the 20-over game is less about experience and more about raw talent. And Irshad, who was spotted during a talent hunt programme, definitely has plenty in the talent department.
The moustached prospect has the ability to bowl up to 150kmph, according to Qalandars coach Aqib Javed — a claim that didn't seem tall when the youngster bagged wicket after wicket during his recent stint with the Hawkesbury Cricket Club in Australia.