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Quetta Gladiators look to replicate last season's form

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Will the Quetta Gladiators fight their way to the top? (0:48)

Last season's runes-up Quetta Gladiators will hope to improve on their performance with their new signings for this season (0:48)

Inaugural season results

Quetta Gladiators were the form team of the group stages last year, demonstrating what could be achieved with savvy recruitment as opposed to throwing money at the big names. After six wins in their eight group-stage games, they eked out a thrilling one-run victory against Peshawar to qualify for the final. That was as good as it got, the Gladiators finding themselves outplayed by an Islamabad side which was flying by that stage, ending a dynamic first season somewhat meekly.

Team assessment

Of the five franchises in the format last year, Quetta Gladiators had, by far, the lowest profile. However, their 2016 results mean they won't be flying under anyone's radar this time around. They are led by Sarfraz Ahmed, who looks like the clear favourite to take over Pakistan's limited-overs captaincy, and whose chances were certainly done no harm by his ability to make an unassuming Quetta side click last season.

Quetta have retained their biggest foreign stars Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright, as well as a large number of local players who exceeded expectations 12 months ago. But a number of new players have been drafted in, including Sri Lankan allrounder Thisara Perera, South Africa's Rilee Rossouw, and Bangladesh's Mahmudullah Riyad.

Exciting English quick Tymal Mills, who can comfortably exceed speeds of 90mph in addition to possessing a devilishly disguised slower ball, has also been brought in. With Umar Gul well past his prime and David Willey replaced by Nathan McCullum, proven fast bowling resources are scant for Quetta, meaning Mills is almost guaranteed a starting berth.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad is another concern for the team from Balochistan. When recruited last year, he was one of Pakistan's most valuable limited-overs players, and ended up being the fourth highest run-scorer of the tournament. But his stock has fallen sharply since. He has lost his place in the national team, having played almost no international cricket since last year's PSL. Should he struggle this time around, it could put a lot of pressure on the likes of Mohammad Nawaz and Anwar Ali, last year's brightest local boys, to simply pick up where they left off last February.

Key foreign player

It would be neither informative nor original to say Kevin Pietersen's performance will be important to Quetta Gladiators' success this tournament, but his countryman Tymal Mills' T20 performances have also begun to catch the eye. In the recently concluded Super Smash, a T20 competition in New Zealand, Mills was among the top ten wicket-takers, and, at 6.61 per over, had the best economy rate of anyone who bowled more than 16 overs. After a pair of impressive games for Brisbane Heat during the Big Bash, he was called up by England for the T20 series against India. He mixes express pace with cunning slower deliveries, making him a useful asset at both top and tail of an innings. With the Gladiators looking rather thin in the fast bowling department, Mills could quickly establish himself as leader of the pace attack.

Under the radar local lad

Not much is known about 18-year old slow left arm bowler Hasan Khan, and the numbers aren't particularly impressive. But ask Quetta Gladiators head coach Moin Khan which player fans should watch out for, the response is immediate: Hasan Khan. He's an Under-19 Pakistan international who Moin thinks has potential to go all the way. On paper, his brand of cricket - left-arm spin bowling - is well suited to the slow wickets of Sharjah and Dubai. Just ask his teammate Mohammad Nawaz.

Availability

Carlos Brathwaite and Rovman Powell of the West Indies will miss the tournament, after the WICB made it mandatory for players seeking national selection to play in the Reigional Super 50, the domestic one-day cup. Moeen Ali was initially drafted, but he withdrew to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage, so Mahmudullah Riyad and Thisara Perera have been called up to replace the West Indian duo. International commitments mean Mohammad Nabi misses out, replaced by Rilee Rossouw. In addition, David Willey was dropped in favour of Black Caps allrounder Nathan McCullum.

Coaches and Staff

Moin Khan (head coach), Sir Vivian Richards (batting coach/mentor), Abdul Razzaq (bowling coach), Julien Fountain (fielding coach)

Quetta Gladiators squad

Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Kevin Pietersen, Ahmed Shehzad, Luke Wright, Anwar Ali, Tymal Mills, Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar, Mohammad Nawaz, Rilee Rossouw, Mahmudullah, Asad Shafiq, Saad Nasim, Umer Amin, Hassaan Khan, Noor Ali. Supplementary players: Nathan McCullum, Thisara Perera, Bismillah Khan, Mir Hamza