Quetta Gladiators are not a star-studded team, but they have emerged as the most successful one in the PSL's short history. They have made each of the two finals so far, driven by a strong core of domestic talent and led by Pakistan's all-format captain Sarfraz Ahmed. Not bad for the franchise that costs the least out of the six playing the tournament. In fact, Quetta were favourites to win last year having beaten the team they would meet in the final, Peshawar Zalmi, in the play-offs. But many of their in-form overseas players did not travel to Lahore and a depleted side was soundly beaten.
Quetta have retained Sarfraz, Kevin Pietersen and Rilee Rossouw, the three pillars of their batting line-up. They have also placed faith in left-arm seamer Mir Hamza, batsman Umar Amin and allrounder Anwar Ali, even though he had a mediocre season in 2016.
Their highest run-scorer Ahmed Shehzad has been shipped off; he will now play for Multan Sultans. Umar Gul is gone. Mohammad Nabi is gone. Zulfiqar Babar and Tymal Mills are no longer on their roster either. The only player that Quetta gave up and bought back was Carlos Brathwaite, and he ended up having to be replaced. The West Indian allrounder will be busy playing the World Cup qualifiers in March and so Quetta invested in seamer Jofra Archer, who was among the players of the tournament in the BBL 2017-18.
Rashid Khan adds to their bowling strength as well, but the legspin sensation and the only Afghanistan player picked up in the PSL draft will not be available for the entire season. The same applies with Bangladesh's Mahmudullah. Shane Watson, who has played 15 matches across two seasons, is their Platinum player.
With Pietersen, Watson and Rossouw, Quetta can blow teams away with their top order alone. In Sarfraz, they have a shrewd and capable captain. And the variety in their bowling line-up, which includes the left-arm-spinning Pakistan Under-19 captain Hasan Khan, will prove handy as well.
It's a good thing Quetta have good options at Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 because there doesn't appear to be enough firepower lower down. They have quality spinners in Rashid and Mohammad Nawaz but Sharjah is usually known to help fast bowlers, putting extra onus on Archer to adapt to UAE conditions.
Key foreign players
Pietersen, who intends to retire by the end of the year, is set for his final stint with Quetta. He has been an integral part of the team, scoring 456 runs in 18 matches at a strike-rate of 140.74. His unbeaten 88 off 42 balls against Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah was nothing short of a classic. Can the 37-year old maintain his lofty standards in his PSL swansong?
Under-the-radar local players
Saad Ali recently rose to prominence, becoming the leading run-scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's premier first-class competition. The 24-year-old left-hander tallied 957 at 68.35 for United Bank Limited with three hundreds and three fifties. He is relatively new to T20 cricket but his List A record - 1448 runs at an average of 48 and a strike-rate of 84 - reflects his ability to adjust to shorter formats.
Quetta's emerging player from the previous season, Hasan Khan, continues to develop in 2018. He led Pakistan to the semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup in February and his skill as a left-arm spinner is considerable. He took 2 for 10 on PSL debut, helping his team defend a total of 136 in spectacular fashion.