Their roster has some of the biggest T20 stars. The hype they create remains unmatched for any other franchise. But when it comes down to business, they fail.

The Lahore Qalandars have lost 11 of the 16 matches they have played across the two editions of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). On both occasions, they finish bottom of the table.

They did, however, show slight improvement in the second go-round, winning three of their eight matches as compared to just two during the inaugural event. Even two of their five losses were closely fought encounters.

A combination of off-field troubles and bad luck could be blamed for the Qalandars inability to move up from the bottom of the table.

In the first edition of the PSL, they had to do without Mustafizur Rehman and Yasir Shah, as the former was denied a No Objection Certificate and the latter got banned for doping.

In the follow-up season, meanwhile, they lost their star West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo to a hamstring injury.

Fakhar Zaman has been made the vice-captain by Qalandars for PSL 3. —Reuters
Fakhar Zaman has been made the vice-captain by Qalandars for PSL 3. —Reuters

This year, however, they head into the tournament with a near-perfect blend of experience and youth. What makes the Qalandars stand out from the rest is their domestic talent-hunt programme that has unearthed potential future stars for Pakistan cricket.

The Qalandars have named Fakhar Zaman as vice-captain in their bid to groom the 27-year-old for a leadership role under the guidance of former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.

The team owners have made the right moves in the off-season, adding some more specialist T20 players to their ranks.

Their capture of Chris Lynn, an explosive T20 opener from Australia who has racked up almost 2,000 runs at a blistering strike rate of 148, was considered a major coupe in the 2018 draft.

The franchise has also made some major changes to its backroom staff, with Aqib Javed replacing Paddy Upton as the new head coach, while Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Shoaib Akhtar were appointed batting and bowling consultants respectively.

Player availability


The Qalandars were forced into making two changes during the replacement draft last month.

They replaced the injured Angelo Mathews with Anton Devcich, and drafted West Indian wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin in place of Mustafizur Rehman.

Strengths


The Qalandars possess experienced T20 players in both batting and bowling departments.

The addition of Chris Lynn bolsters a top order that already had hard-hitters such as McCullum, Zaman, and Umar Akmal.

The presence of Sunil Narine, who has four 50s in the format to his name and scores at a strike rate of almost 150, and Sohail Khan, who also has the ability to hit out of the park, adds great depth to their batting unit.

Young Shaheen Afridi will be looking to impress in the tournament. — Twitter
Young Shaheen Afridi will be looking to impress in the tournament. — Twitter

In bowling department, the Qalandars have struck a balance between pace and spin.

Their spearhead would likely be Sohail who, with 16 scalps to his name, was the highest wicket-take of PSL 2017. He will be supported by Mustafizur Rehman (if only for a few matches), Mitchell McClenaghan, and all-rounder Aamer Yamin.

Then, they have the prodigious and precocious left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi, who left a lasting impression in the recent Under-19 World Cup by taking 12 wickets — just two fewer than the tournament's highest wicket-taker — in five matches at an average of 14.58.

The team’s spin department includes Sunil Narine, the third-highest wicket taker in T20 format with 307 wickets in 262 matches, and Raza Hasan, who will make his PSL debut after completing a drug ban.

The pair will be backed by Yasir Shah, who has been spearheading Pakistan’s Test bowling attack over the last three years, but is yet to leave a mark in limited-overs cricket.

Weaknesses

Despite having such a well-rounded unit, the Qalandars are still prone to throwing away matches.

Captaincy and how the team approaches the games also remain major issue. Midway through the first PSL, they took away the armband from Azhar Ali and handed it to Dwayne Bravo but it did not help the Qalandars secure a play-off berth.

Last year, they roped in McCullum as their captain with the hope of having a more aggressive approach, but the results stayed the same.

This year, all eyes will be on their new vice-captain: Fakhar Zaman

The player to watch out for: Umar Akmal

The younger Akmal is more of a problem child for the Pakistan Cricket Board. He has been in the news more for his off-field antics than for his on-field performances.

Moreover, there have also always been question marks on his fitness — a proof of which was him failing multiple fitness tests last year in the buildup to the Champions Trophy, for which he was sent back home.

A few months later, he accused head coach Mickey Arthur of unfair treatment when he wanted to train at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.

What type of headlines will Umar Akmal make this time? — File photo
What type of headlines will Umar Akmal make this time? — File photo

Consistency is another of Akmal's vices, evident by him being the leading run-scorer in the PSL 2016 followed by an average tournament the next year.

Nonetheless, he is a 'talented youngster', for which the Qalandars have retained him in their squad.  

With his performances dipping day by day, it will be interesting to see how Akmal responds to the hopes that Qalandars have pinned on him.

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