One PSL edition commencing within three months of the conclusion of another is a scenario the organizers of the tournament would not have imagined even in the wildest of dreams, but such is the nature of the pandemic-struck world we live in; do not search for logic. The 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League, the sixth iteration of the tournament, will commence on February 20 at the National Stadium in Karachi, and boy it promises to be a hell of a season.
Led by the flamboyant Imad Wasim, Karachi Kings might have pocketed the 2020 edition of the tournament, but with each of the six sides in the competition having reinforced their squads through the draft, the 2021 edition of the PSL promises to be the most open season of the competition yet.
Predicting the outcome of an open edition like the forthcoming one can be really, really tricky, but using equal measures of numbers, statistics, our prediction model powered by Artificial Intelligence, we bring to you a full-on walkthrough of how you can make money by laying your trust in the right teams in a week’s time.
Lahore Qalandars (LQ) – 4.00
Captain: Sohail Akhtar, Head Coach: Aaqib Javed
The finalists of the last edition, Lahore Qalandars were at the receiving end of a Babar Azam masterclass in the final but there are so much to expect from their revamped squad. They have scooped in Rashid Khan of all people to bolster the bowling line up with Shaheen Shah Afridi being the major force to reckon with.
The fact that they have a boom or bust season every time they enter PSL, things become complicated while predicting their outcome. But this year they have a focused combination from the looks of it and the likes of Fakhar Zaman and veteran Ben Dunk can give the side an early edge.
Dunk, a BBL and PSL legend, is known for heavy lifting and in addition to the fact that they have bowlers to contain the run flow, the Sohail Akhtar-led side becomes a potent force for the upcoming season. So brace for a solid ride with the Qalandars and don’t be surprised if the side surprises everyone and takes the cake single-handedly.
Karachi Kings (KK) – 4.33
Captain: Imad Wasim, Head Coach: Herschelle Gibbs
Clearly, one of the favorites to win the PSL 2021, Karachi Kings have taken the second position on our expected win model because of the additions they’ve had this year. The defending champions from the last year, under the aegis of Late Dean Jones, are back to the scene with Babar Azam magnifying his status as one of the world’s most premier T20 batsmen, having, last season, racked up 473 runs, including half-centuries in the qualifier and the final.
The team, led by a spunky and aggressive Imad Wasim, is not a one-star pony either. They have promises galore in their system with Danish Aziz, who averaged in the 70s in both the one-day and T20 competitions for Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2020-21, adding the required spunk to the side to build on from last year’s performance.
With Herschelle Gibbs replacing Dean Jones, he will have heavy baggage on his shoulder but with Gibbs we know, he can push the side to go that extra mile in unearthing many gems from the squad. With six wins on their way to the title, the Imad Wasim-led side had proven their ability and this year the players just need to get their act together.
If such has been their dominance, why have they been placed below Lahore Qalandars? The reason being the recent returns of few of their players. As much as Karachi fans can brag about Dan Christian, Colin Ingram failed to inspire any confidence with his performance for the Hurricanes.
Quetta Gladiators (QG) – 5.50
Captain: Sarfaraz Ahmed, Coach: Moin Khan
Led by former Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Quetta Gladiators enjoyed a phenomenal run of form in 2019 on their way to the title and even though they finished at the second last position, they have arranged a strong squad in the draft.
With the marquee signing of Chris Gayle, the Gladiators can pin their hope on the West Indian to turn their fortunes around. At 41, Gayle is still going strong, with his dominating batting performance in the recently-concluded Abu Dhabi T10 League being the prime example. Even in a tough league like IPL, Gayle was a star last year, mounting 238 runs at 41.14 for Kings XI Punjab, including a stunning 99 off 63 balls against Rajasthan Royals.
Their major strength lies in their bowling and it was one area they can really be happy about. With Umar Gul joining them as the bowling coach, the Gladiators saw Mohammed Hasnain, who had a disappointing PSL 5, turning the fortunes around in the next season, picking 15 wickets – seven wickets more than their second-best Ben Cutting.
The odds of 5.50 are an indicator of their weakness too. The 2019 champions have eight players under the age of 23 with Tom Banton having an extra workload on him after Shane Watson retired, and Jason Roy spoke about his unavailability for the season. The franchise has a tough first few matches and they would need to start well if they want to have the advantage later on. All in all, this projects a big dilemma.
Peshawar Zalmi (PZ) – 6.00
Captain: Wahab Riaz, Coach: Daren Sammy
The Chennai Super Kings of PSL, at least from the squad perspective. Peshawar Zalmi, which till last year had Darren Sammy as captain, was not clearly a fan of having more young players in the squad. Not that their senior players are not competent, but the fact that they have an odd of 6.00 in our AI model, it says something about their fortune.
Most of their players, including Shoaib Malik, Riaz, and Ravi Bopara are approaching the fag end of their respective careers and clearly are not the best bet to surpass the dynamism imposed by others. They do, however, have Mujeeb Ur Rahman, whose economy rate is below 8 in all T20 leagues barring IPL, to take the powerplay duties.
But that said, how they use the limited resources at their disposal is a thing to ponder about and it remains to be seen if Sammy can get the best out of young talents like Haider Ali from the beginning. However, our model gives them the fourth position this year, the same position where they ended up last year.
Islamabad United (IU) – 6.50
Captain: Shadab Khan, Coach: Johan Botha
Islamabad United finished at the bottom of the table last season and anyone with a slight bit of understanding of the PSL dynamics would bank on the side to hold the narrative once and for all. The Champion for the 2016 and 2018 seasons have got their core back, now bolstered by the presence of Alex Hales and Phil Salt, with the former still being sidelined from the national duty due to skipper Morgan’s insistence.
However, his addition will not mean a lot for the side that lost four of their five highest run-scorers from last team, including Dawid Malan and Colin Munro, who topped the table in 2020. Malan, despite his moderate BBL returns, was a huge pick and he could’ve made a difference but that is going to be the difference.
There are hopes on Hussain Talat and Asif Ali but both have had dwindling returns in domestic cricket and don’t look in the best of the form to have an impact in the long run. Johan Botha, who has made coaching a full-time profession, will be eager to start his stint with a win but a coach can do only as much.
Multan Sultans (MS) – 6.50
Captain: Shan Masood, Coach: Andy Flower
The youngest franchise in the Pakistan Super League, Multan Sultans has failed historically, finishing second-to-bottom in 2018 and 2019 before surprising everyone the following season with a complete performance. However, therein lies the scoop. Multan Sultans failed in the playoffs last year, losing both their games and their record isn’t really great either from that count.
In the draft, they got hold of Adam Lyth, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Lynn but none of them have been really impactful in the last couple of years. Brathwaite is a spent force who shows up once in a while – like that 2016 World T20 final and 2019 World Cup match against New Zealand – thus relying on him would be blasphemous.
The retained players like Sohail Tanvir and Shan Masood are not at their best in the last few seasons and that reduces the chances of Multan Sultans, who, with odds of 6.50 alongside Islamabad United, are expected to fail in our model.