The Mzansi Super League player draft in Soweto has thrown up a couple of surprises, with some big names going unsold and some unknown players getting a look in. Liam Plunkett, Dawid Malan and Imad Wasim were all ignored, but 17-year-old left-arm wristspinner Waqar Salamkheil from Afghanistan was picked up by Tshwane Spartans. Hashim Amla, who had retired from international cricket last month after the World Cup, pulled out of the draft on Tuesday morning.
Having already been allocated both their South African and international marquee players ahead of the draft, the teams made the remainder of their picks from a pool that included 184 foreign players, including South African Kolpak cricketers, a huge increase on the 71 overseas players who applied in the tournament's first season.
The six MSL teams chose 13 players during Tuesday's draft, and the 14th position - rounding out squads of 16 - will be a wild card to be selected after the Provincial T20 competition. The wild card pick must come either from the main player draft list, or from the Provincial T20 compeititon squad list.
Last season's two most successful teams, Cape Town Blitz and the title-winning Jozi Stars, both retained the core of their squads. Jozi held onto Kagiso Rabada and Chris Gayle, as well as Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks and Dan Christian. They also kept Duanne Olivier who was pivotal to their success last year as the tournament's leading wicket-taker and is now an overseas Kolpak player.
Cape Town's batting strength will once again be at the top of the order, with the consistent pairing of Quinton de Kock and Janneman Malan set to open. Cape Town also retained the services of the big-hitting Asif Ali, as well as fellow Pakistani Mohammad Nawaz, while they will also have what is on paper the strongest pace attack in the tournament. Dale Steyn and Anrich Nortje will likely share the new ball, while Wahab Riaz and Sisanda Magala are expected to provide control at the death. Vernon Philander too returned to Cape Town, having spent the first MSL with Durban Heat.
Having finished at the bottom of the points table last year, Durban, unsurprisingly, made a host of changes to their squad. Looking to strengthen their batting, the English pair of Alex Hales and Ravi Bopara were drafted in, with the experienced heads of David Miller and Khaya Zondo retained. Durban also procured the services of Dane Vilas, who captained Jozi to success in the inaugural competition, and is expected to once again play a leadership role under new coach Gary Kirsten.
There were also several changes to the Tshwane Spartans squad. AB de Villiers remained their South African marquee player, but there was a notable pivot towards out-and-out pace in their squad, with Morne Morkel joining Lungi Ngidi and Lutho Sipamla. The Zimbabwean pair of Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza weren't picked this time, but Tshwane did look overseas in choosing Roelof van der Merwe, the former South Africa and current Netherlands spin-bowling allrounder, as well as Salamkheil from Afghanistan.
Salamkheil made his Test debut against Ireland earlier this year, and in the T20 format has also popped up in the Comilla Victorians and Peshawar Zalmi squads in the Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League respectively.
The two mid-table teams from last year's competition, Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Paarl Rocks, retained most of their respective squads. Nelson Mandela Bay picked up Jason Roy as their international marquee player, and also managed to get hold of Farhaan Behardien, who was with Paarl last time around, and Beuran Hendricks, the left-arm quick who was Player of the Match in last year's final.
Paarl's middle order is packed with experience, with JP Duminy joining Faf du Plessis and Henry Davids, along with Cameron Delport and Aiden Markram. James Vince will also slot into their batting line-up, while Paarl have pace options in Isuru Udana and Hardus Viljoen, and a strong spin attack centred around Tabraiz Shamsi and Bjorn Fortuin.
Cape Town Blitz: Quinton de Kock, Wahab Riaz (Pakistan), Liam Livingstone(England), Dale Steyn (retained player), Sisanda Magala, Anrich Nortje (retained player), Asif Ali (Pakistan, retained player), Mohammad Nawaz (Pakistan), Janneman Malan (retained player), George Linde, David Bedingham, Vernon Philander, Marques Ackerman, Gregory Mahlokoana, Aviwe Mgijima
Durban Heat: Andile Phehlukwayo, Alex Hales (England), David Miller (retained player), Dane Vilas, Ravi Bopara (England), Keshav Maharaj (retained player), Kyle Abbott (kolpak, retained player), Khaya Zondo (retained player), Marco Jansen (rookie), Daryn Dupavillon, Sarel Erwee (retained player), Malusi Siboto, Prenelan Subrayen, Wihan Lubbe, Shaun von Berg
Jozi Stars: Kagiso Rabada, Chris Gayle (West Indies), Rassie van der Dussen (retained player), Reeza Hendricks (retained player), Daniel Christian (Australia, retained player), Temba Bavuma, Duanne Olivier (retained player), Simon Harmer, Ryan Rickelton (retained player), Aaron Phangiso, Lizaad Williams, Sinethemba Qeshile (retained player), Nono Pongolo, Eathan Bosch, Delano Potgieter
Nelson Mandela Bay Giants: Imran Tahir, Jason Roy (England), Chris Morris (retained player), Jon-Jon Smuts (retained player), Junior Dala (retained player), Farhaan Behardien, Beuran Hendricks, Matthew Breetzke, Onke Nyaku, Ben Dunk (Australia), Heino Kuhn (retained player), Marco Marais (retained player), Grant Thomson, Akhona Mnyaka, Nandre Burger
Paarl Rocks: Faf du Plessis, Isuru Udana (Sri Lanka), JP Duminy, Tabraiz Shamsi (retained player), Hardus Viljoen, Aiden Markram (retained player), Bjorn Fortuin (retained player), James Vince (England), Dwaine Pretorius, Cameron Delport (kolpak, retained player), Sibonelo Makhanya, Henry Davids (retained player), Mangaliso Mosehle (retained player), Ferisco Adams, Kerwin Mungroo
Tshwane Spartans: AB de Villiers, Tom Curran (England), Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi (retained player), Heinrich Klaasen, Theunis de Bruyn (retained player), Roelof van der Merwe, Lutho Sipamla (retained player), Pite van Biljon, Tony de Zorzi (retained player), Waqar Salamkheil (Afghanistan), Dean Elgar, Wiaan Mulder, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Corbin Bosch