Last season, Quetta Gladiators made it to the PSL final in Lahore without their first-choice overseas players, and the depleted side was bowled out for 90 by Peshawar Zalmi, eventually losing by a massive 58 runs. This season, Quetta made it to the first eliminator with the help of their two best overseas players - Shane Watson and Kevin Pietersen - but those two pulled out from the Lahore trip and Quetta were knocked out. What would have added to Quetta's pains was how they came close to winning on Tuesday night, when they needed three to win off the final ball, but fell short by only one run.
A team that had the potential to win the title crashed out mainly because they were deprived of their best possible combination. Feeling "hurt" because of the situation, their head coach Moin Khan has urged the PCB to avoid picking players in the PSL draft who refuse to tour Pakistan. He also dismissed the importance of individual players and said the brand of PSL was taking a hit because of players pulling out at the most important stage of the tournament.
"We, in the coming season, should only pick players who have the consent to visit Pakistan," Moin said after the match. "We do not need to push for individuality as our league has now become a bigger brand and now we need to go on and think about the teams. So going into the future, we don't need to get these players who don't want to come to Pakistan. In fact, this is hurting Pakistan as it is sending a negative signal and affects our country's image as well.
"Their refusal on visiting Pakistan sends a false impression that we are an unsafe country, but I am pretty sure we are a safe country and they should come here and play. I personally feel we eventually shouldn't be dependent on these players. If somebody respects Pakistan and the image of the country, he should come and play this league."
Watson and Pietersen, who had scored 319 and 155 runs respectively along with Watson's 11 wickets, had led Quetta's top order in the group stage while Rilee Rossouw held their middle order as they won five games out of the 10 played in the UAE. But their entire combination for the eliminator in Lahore was disturbed after Watson and Pietersen pulled out due to safety concerns. Quetta had to then pick players from outside their roster who landed in Lahore hours before the game.
Thisara Perera, for example, had to take three flights to reach Lahore. Peshawar, on the contrary, had their full-strength side to play, led by West Indies' Darren Sammy.
Quetta were the most aggrieved team, led by Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who had to come up with a new combination for the eliminator. Moin Khan said he pushed his local players to step up despite the limitation, and dispelled the importance of overseas players but stated that he was let down by a few local players and that a few unnecessary shots cost them the game.
"[I am] feeling hurt as a head coach," Moin said after the match. "It was a good match in terms of entertainment but we made mistakes and a few unnecessary shots were played. But overall your combination is broken...it happens because Shane Watson didn't come despite committing and about KP we always knew he wouldn't be coming to Pakistan. So the problem is very obvious and otherwise we are not really choking because we were without our right combination and our strength was broken so we were nowhere.
"Even today, our one overseas player - Thisara Perera - he joined us at a time when we were making our way to the ground and he landed in Lahore after three connections from Colombo to Dubai to Karachi to Lahore. Tom [Kohler-Cadmore] and Mahmudullah landed earlier this morning. No matter how big a player you are, your body needs rest. We had discussed in our team meeting that we don't need to depend on our overseas players, and have to show our commitment and take responsibility as a team. Winning and losing is a part of the game but I am happy that we still managed to stretch the game in the end and we had a close finish."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent