With just 21 days to go for the second season of the PSL, let us take a look at the squads of the PSL franchises; their strengths and weaknesses, key players and players to keep an eye on. First up, the Lahore Qalandars.
The Qalandars had a season to forget last year; ending up last of all of the five teams, as they managed to win only 2 games. Since then, they have made some key changes to their squad, the most important being a change of captain, as they have roped in Brendon McCullum, who will take over the Qalandars' captaincy from Azhar Ali.
Squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Sunil Narine, Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Dwayne Bravo, Yasir Shah, Anton Devcich, Mohammad Rizwan, Cameron Delport, Azhar Ali, Aamer Yamin, Zafar Gohar, Fakhar Zaman, Bilawal Bhatti, Ghulam Mudassar, Usman Qadir, Grant Elliot, Shaun Tait, Saif Badar, Mohammad Irfan (Jr)
Strengths: T20 specialists & Hard Hitting Batsmen
Like last year, the Qalandars' strong suit seems to be their batting. The likes of Brendon McCullum, Cameron Delport and Umar Akmal will form the core of their batting. They also have some T20 specialists in the bowling department, such as Sohail Tanvir, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine, although it could be argued that the latter may not be as successful after having changed his action.
Weakness: Pace Bowling
Once again, like last year, the Lahore Qalandars' pace bowling seems to be their weakest link. Much will probably depend on the skills of Dwayne Bravo and Sohail Tanvir. The likes of Ghulam Mudassar and Mohammad Irfan Jr. are touted as upcoming prospects, but their inexperience could work against the Qalandars.
Key Player: Umar Akmal
Perhaps the only positive of the Qalandars' campaign in 2016 was Umar Akmal's performance. Akmal ended as the tournament's highest run-scorer with 334 runs, and managed to score runs consistently at a quick pace. The Qalandars will be hoping that Akmal will be able to replicate those performances this year, and that the bowlers will be able to back him up this time.
Umar Akmal had an impressive PSL 2016, ending as the leading run-scorer of the tournament.
Player to watch out for: Fakhar Zaman
While there are a number of talented youngsters in the Lahore Qalandars side, the one that stands out is Fakhar Zaman. The left handed opening batsman amassed runs across all three formats last year, scoring three fifties in five games for Pakistan A vs England Lions in the UAE series, and followed that up with an impressive 180 against Zimbabwe A. He was also the second highest run-scorer in the Pakistan Cup earlier this year, with 297 runs in five innings at 59.40, including a knock of 115 that set up Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's win in the final. He was also among the runs in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy for the HBL side, including 157 in the tournament final. If he manages to perform in the PSL, he could well win a spot in the Pakistan squad to tour the West Indies.
Fakhar Zaman had successful outings in domestic cricket, and for Pakistan A in 2016.
Other players to keep an eye on would be allrounder Aamer Yamin , who will be looking to make a comeback into the Pakistan side, as well as left arm spinner Zafar Gohar , who has also fallen out of favour with the selectors after a promising start, although he will have to challenge the likes of Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah to get into the XI. Ghulam Mudassar was picked as one of the emerging players after he impressed bowling coach Aaqib Javed, so he should also be worth keeping an eye on, as is Mohammad Irfan Jr. , whereas Saif Badar is regarded by many as a future batting talent
The Lahore Qalandars have a good mixture of youth and experience, and also have some T20 specialists among their squad, from whom these youngsters can learn. While the likes of Sohail Tanvir and Aamer Yamin will improve their pace bowling, it is still their weak point. However, if one of the youngsters like Ghulam Mudassar or Mohammad Irfan Jr. can step up, they could be a force to deal with. With Brendon McCullum captaining the side, they look a better outfit than last year, and have every chance to end up higher on the points table this year.