If Pakistan's fourth-innings implosion against New Zealand on Monday was a poor warm-up, the Pakistan Super League 2019 draft lost much of its sheen to the PCB's case against the BCCI being dismissed by the ICC dispute panel on Tuesday. However, the semblance of attention the draft received, as the glittery ceremony unfolded in Islamabad, came via its most celebrated pick - AB de Villiers - going to Lahore Qalandars, followed by the 'Sixth Team', formerly Multan, snapping up the banned Australia batsman Steven Smith.
Aside from de Villiers and Smith, the focus was on veterans Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq, as both had been released by their former franchises, making it tough for both players to remain relevant. Although Afridi's chances of recruitment had been slim in the lead-up to the draft, the Sixth Team bought him in the Platinum category - the highest-paid bracket. Misbah reneged on his agreement with Islamabad United as a mentor to make himself available to be picked up Peshawar Zalmi in the Diamond category.
The 36-year-old Ian Bell, who last played for England in 2015, proved to be the most surprising pick, by Islamabad United. A prolific season in county cricket was perhaps one of the factors that clinched the deal for Bell. Although thin on T20 experience in England colours, Bell flourished in the format in the last three years, amassing 1551 runs in 50 matches, at an average of 37.83 and a strike rate of 131. He has also played in the Big Bash with Perth Scorchers. ESPNcricinfo understands that Bell was seen as a like-for-like replacement for JP Duminy, given his ability to accumulate runs in a largely risk-free manner, in a team otherwise replete with power-hitters.
Until last night, Lahore Qalandars were faced with a difficult choice between de Villiers and Smith - both red-hot picks of the season. They went with de Villiers, but later in the opening Platinum round, also picked Mohammad Hafeez, who was released by Peshawar Zalmi. They have retained spinner Yasir Shah, who was also part of the side through the last three seasons. They bolstered their legspin contingent with the addition of Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane, in the Gold category.
The biggest omission from the top five categories was Pakistan batsman Ahmed Shehzad, who is currently serving his doping ban but is set to return to action later this month. He was classified in the Gold category but was overlooked by all teams, before being relegated to the Silver category, where, too, his fate remain unchanged. However, Quetta Gladiators, who released him for the third season, picked him in the supplement category among four extra players.
Abdul Razzaq and Imran Nazir, both on a quest to revive their careers, entered the draft but remain unpicked, as were Umar Gul and Salman Butt. The major miss, however, was former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. Among the younger lot, 20-year-old Ibtisam Sheikh, a legspinner who was originally released by Pesawar Zalmi, made it back to their squad.