A dream of our own league, with an international flavour, has been realised in the form of Pakistan Super League. Its fourth edition in the form of PSL 2019 promises to be bigger, better and more exciting than all the previous three editions.

Six teams are going to be involved in the intense struggle for supremacy in the form of PSL champion’s crown. A war would be fought by each team in the form of ten battles at least to qualify for the knock-out stages of the tournament each team would play all the other five teams twice in the league stage of the tournament.

The action starts on Thursday, February 14, with the opening match being played between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars. It will be preceded by a colourful opening ceremony in which many of the well-known singers will perform.

A total of 34 matches will be played, out of which the last eight would be played in Pakistan. The rest would be played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

The top four teams of the League would qualify for the playoffs. Based on their League positions, the top four teams would play one or more matches in the stage to qualify for the final. The first and the second placed team will face off in a qualifier, whereas the third and fourth placed sides will play in an eliminator. The winner of the qualifier would advance to the finals. The loser of the qualifier will face the winner of the eliminator in a second qualifier. The winner of the second qualifier will also advance to the final.

Let us review all the six sides in the event.

Peshawar Zalmi

The 2017 champions would be looking forward to another strong showing this year. They have the second best win percentage of all the teams over the last three seasons and have made it to the playoffs each time. They are the favourites to lift the trophy this year as well.

They have released players like Mohammad Hafeez and Dwayne Bravo who have since joined Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators respectively. Kamran Akmal is their leading scorer while Wahab Riaz is their leading wicket taker.

Their notable overseas players include Kieron Pollard (West Indies) and Darren Sammy (West Indies). Their coaching and consultancy staff includes the likes of Younis Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mohammad Akram. Darren Sammy would be the captain of the side.

Star players: Kamran Akmal, Wahab Riaz and Kieron Pollard.

Islamabad United

They are the most successful side in the history of the tournament, having won it twice in the past three editions. They might not have a star-studded line-up, but they make up for that in the form of teamwork and making the best use of their resources.

Luke Ronchi (who was the player of the tournament last year) would captain the side in the absence of Misbah ul Haq, who has joined Peshawar Zalmi. Other players who have departed from their squad of last year include Andre Russell, JP Duminy, Alex Hales and Samuel Badree.

The notable overseas players in their squad are Ian Bell (England), Samit Patel (England) and Cameron Delport (South Africa). They are coached by Dean Jones (Australia) and Waqar Younus among others.

Star players: Luke Ronchi, Muhammad Sami, Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf.

Quetta Gladiators

They are the team who count themselves unlucky. They have reached two finals in a row, but they are yet to win a title. They are led by the Pakistan team captain Sarfraz Ahmed.

Quetta Gladiators are one of the best performers in the league stage of the tournament with a high win percentage. They are also one of the favourites to win the tournament this year.

This year they have traded Rahat Ali and Hassan Khan with Lahore Qalandars in exchange for Sunil Narine and Umar Akmal. Their star performers with the bat last year were Sarfraz Ahmed and Rilee Rossouw, while Mohammad Nawaz and Anwar Ali did well in the bowling department.

Their notable overseas players are Sunil Narine (West Indies) and Dwayne Bravo (West Indies). Their coaching staff includes the likes of Moin Khan, Abdul Razzaq and Sir Vivian Richards.

Star players: Ahmed Shahzad, Shane Watson and Sunil Narine

Karachi Kings

Karachi Kings have the second worst record among the teams in the tournament. They carry the weight of expectation of arguably the majority of supporters and are coached by the Pakistan’s national team’s coach. So it is about time that they deliver and at least reach the final or give a very strong showing in the league stage.

Babar Azam was their leading scorer last year, while Usman Khan was the leading wicket taker. They have released several players from their previous squad, such as Luke Wright, Eoin Morgan, Mitchell Johnson and Shahid Afridi.

Their notable overseas players include Colin Munro (New Zealand), Colin Ingram (South Africa) and Ravi Bopara (England). Their management and coaching staff includes Wasim Akram and Micky Arthur (Pakistan’s national team’s coach) among others.

Imad Waseem would lead the side.

Star players: Babar Azam, Colin Munro and Mohammad Amir.

Lahore Qalandars

They have been the worst performers in the league with the lowest win percentage of all the sides. They have had star players; but have failed to gel as a team. At times, they have buckled under pressure in the vital moments of many matches. So they would be looking to change things around in this year’s tournament.

They have made changes to their squad in an attempt to change things around. The likes of Brendon Mccullum (ex-captain), Sunil Narine and Umar Akmal have left. The new important additions are AB de Villiers and Mohammad Hafeez (captain).

Their notable overseas players include AB de Villiers (South Africa), Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies) and Corey Andersen (New Zealand).

Their coaching and advisory staff includes the likes of Aqib Javed, Inzamam ul Haq and Shoaib Akhtar.

Star players: AB de Villiers and Fakhar Zaman

Multan Sultans

The Multan Sultans’ team of last year has been abandoned to create a new Multan team. The new Multan team has seen a number of big names joining it like Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik (captain). Steve Smith (ex-Australian captain) was also set to join them, but he has had an elbow injury.

They have let go players like Kumar Sangakkara, Umar Gul and Kieron Pollard from their squad of last year. They are under a new ownership and management, so the performance of the last year are not all that relevant this year. They would be doing well if they qualify for the playoffs.

Their notable overseas players are Andre Russell (West Indies) and James Vince (England). Among their coaching staff, the notables are Johan Botha and Mohammad Wasim.

Star players: Shahid Afridi, Andre Russell and Shoaib Malik

So there you have it — your complete guide to this year’s tournament. It is worth mentioning that the final will be played on March 17, in Karachi. For a full schedule of matches, please visit the tournament’s the official site https://www.psl-t20.com/. Happy watching!

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 9th, 2019