If there is one team in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) that has ruled both the pitch and the spectators' hearts, it is Peshawar Zalmi.

After impressing during the first edition but falling short of qualifying for the final, Zalmi powered through the second time and emerged as winners in front of a capacity crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

Zalmi skipper Darren Sammy’s selfie with his teammates is still one of the most iconic moments of the league.

It is safe to say that Zalmi will start off as tournament favourites this season and the rest of the sides will have to come up with a way to stop this juggernaut.

Zalmi's key strength so far has been their aggressive style of play.

Even without the swashbuckling former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, who will now feature for the Karachi Kings, Zalmi have the firepower to humiliate any opposition.

Strengths and weaknesses

Zalmi have been phenomenal with both the bat and the ball in the previous editions, but with Hasan Ali’s injury, Afridi's departure and Dwayne Bravo's unavailability, their attack has been weakened.

In their absence, Wahab Riaz will have to lead the bowling attack.

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Sammy would want his batsmen to step up. In Kamran Akmal and Tamim Iqbal, they have an explosive top order. It will be on Mohammad Hafeez and Haris Sohail to build up the innings, and on Dwayne Smith to provide the firepower later on.

Despite a few last-minute changes to their roster, Zalmi still have a strong line-up, featuring a balanced blend of batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders.

But it is no denying that they will be heavily relying on their big names to perform and their squad does not seem to be as strong as it was in the previous two seasons.

Player availability

The team was dealt a major blow with the injury of Hasan Ali, who will be covered for by Umaid Asif, a 33-year-old medium-fast bowler from Sialkot. Hasan is still accompanying the team, with his recovery to be monitored on a daily basis.

Bangladesh’s star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan will also be away this season. Liam Dawson, a slow left-arm orthodox bowler from England, will replace him.

Zalmi were in for another setback with the absence of West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, but they managed to rope in another Caribbean all-rounder Dwayne Smith to cover for him.

Another change in the squad was announced recently when Evin Lewis was selected by the West Indies for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Rikki Wessels, the son of former Proteas captain Kepler Wessels, has joined in place of Lewis.

Tamim Iqbal will also be unavailable after March 4th as he will be heading back to Bangladesh for national duty.

Player to watch: Kamran Akmal

Kamran Akmal, 36, may be out of favour as far as the Pakistani team is concerned, but he has not stopped piling runs in the domestic circuit.

With a strike rate of 130.79 in 211 domestic T20s, Akmal has three hundreds and 31 half-centuries to his credit. He remains a key player for Zalmi, especially at a time when the franchise is already short of key performers.

It will be a great opportunity for Akmal to make a case for his return to the national side. Young players are no doubt a good prospect for future, but there should be space for merit as well.

Squad

Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Akmal, Liam Dawson (cover for Shakib Al Hasan), Darren Sammy (captain), Umaid Asif (cover for Hasan Ali), Haris Sohail, Chris Jordan, Mohammad Asghar, Dwayne Smith, Tamim Iqbal, Hammad Azam, Saad Nasim, Taimoor Sultan, Sameen Gul, Ibtisam Shaikh, Andre Fletcher, Rikki Wessels, Khalid Usman and Mohammad Arif

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