Can the 'Dilon Ke Baadshah' become kings of the PSL this year ?
PSL Team Preview: Karachi Kings:
'Turmoil'. If there was one word that could sum up the Karachi Kings' campaign last year, that would be it. No matter who they tried at the top of the order, they failed. Their captain stepped down from the helm midway through the tournament, they lacked the firepower down the order to finish off games, and key players such as Malik and Imad went missing throughout the tournament. Somehow, they managed to win two games vs the Qalandars, and made it to the 2nd qualifying final, where they were predictably sent packing off by Islamabad United.
This year, they have definitely attempted to rectify those issues, as can be seen by the changes in their squad.
Squad : Kumar Sangakkara (c), Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard, Mohammad Amir, Ravi Bopara, Imad Wasim, Babar Azam, Ryan McLaren, Sohail Khan, Shahzaib Hasan, Saifullah Bangash, Khurram Manzoor, Kashif Bhatti, Abrar Ahmed, Abdul Ameer, Mahela Jayawardene, Usama Mir, Rahat Ali, Ammad Alam.
Kumar Sangakarra will look to turn things around, after having a wretched outing in the BBL
First up, Sri Lankan veteran Kumar Sangakarra has been brought in to lead the side. While Sangakarra was a good tactician, and a fantastic wicket keeper batsman in his hay day, his recent form will be a cause of concern for the Kings. Kumar was in terrible form for the Hobart Hurricanes in the BPL, and was dropped from his side midway through the tournament. Still, there is no doubt that in these conditions, he still has the skillset to dominate the opposition bowlers.
The opening is something that the Karachi management would definitely have talked about, and that is why they have recruited hard hitting West Indian opening batsman Chris Gayle. While Gayle can definitely take the game away from the opposition when on song, he is known to be inconsistent and is fairly weak against spin, and on Asian pitches, and he therefore may not provide Karachi with what they are looking for. The management will be hoping that he can find his form and provide the side with blazing starts.
Chris Gayle has been brought in, in an attempt to solve Karachi's opening woes.
Finally, lower order hitting was also one of the worries for Karachi last year, which is why Kieron Pollard has been brought in. Once again, the caveat here is that Pollard may struggle in these conditions. Still, with the likes of Gayle, Sangakarra and Pollard, Karachi look a stronger outfit than they did last year.
Kieron Pollard will be tasked to provide the late order impetus for the Kings.
Like last year, the Kings have stacked their team with an array of allrounders, including the likes of Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Ryan McLaren, Ravi Bopara and Kieron Pollard. This should help them give a good balanced combination, and give them depth with both bat and ball.
Weakness: Inexperienced 'Emerging' Players
The PSL has a policy that all teams need to pick atleast one 'emerging' player in their XIs, and Karachi have opted for some inexperienced names, such as Abdul Ameer, Abrar Ahmed and Ammad Alam, and their manager boasted that we have selected the youngest player in the draft. While it seems good to give opportunity to youth on paper, Karachi should remember that they have to play atleast one of these players in the XI, and if they don't fire, they could find themselves in some trouble.
Key Players: Babar Azam & Ravi Bopara
One of the talking points about the PSL trades was Islamabad United trading Babar Azam to the Kings. The young batsman has been in terrific form throughout 2016, and became the joint quickest player to 1000 ODI runs just recently. He didn't have a great tournament last year, but there is no doubt about his talent, and the Kings will be hoping that he can showcase it this time around.
Babar Azam was in good form throughout 2016, and became the joint fastest player to 1000 ODI runs
Another key player would be Ravi Bopara. The allrounder ended up as the second highest run scorer and the fifth highest wicket taker last year and also recorded what were at that time the best ever bowling figures in a T20 match: 6/16 vs the Lahore Qalandars.
Player to watch out for: Shahzaib Hasan
It's been some time since Shahzaib last featured for Pakistan. The opening batsman was part of the victorious WT20 squad in 2009, and played a few games afterwards, but was eventually dropped. Shahzaib was in good form in the National T20 cup, where he scored 344 runs in 9 games, with 5 fifties to his name. Considering that Pakistan is looking for hard hitting batsmen for the ODI outfit, Shahzaib could earn a recall if he manages to bring that form to the PSL.
Could Shahzaib Hasan be the solution to Pakistan's batting woes in ODIs ?
Another players to keep an eye on would be legspinner Usama Mir who will be returning from injury. Usama impressed Karachi Kings' coach Mickey Arthur last year, and will be looking to do so again this year.
After a poor campaign last year, the Kings have looked to strengthen their side with big names like Sangakarra, Chris Gayle, Babar Azam & Kieron Pollard. They have some fine allrounders and good pace options in Sohail Khan and Amir, as well as some decent spinners in Usama Mir, Imad Wasim and Shoaib Malik. They look a better outfit than last year's but the major key to their success will be if Gayle and Pollard are able to find form in spinning conditions. Otherwise, they could well end up with another disappointing campaign, despite having a good side on paper.