Last season, Qalandars won five out of their first six games. They had to win just one more game to make the playoffs, but ended up losing the last four, finishing with the second-poorest net run-rate. They are the only team in the league in the last six years not to win the title. Qalandars' best finish came in the fifth edition, when they reached the final, losing to Karachi Kings. But other than that season, they have generally finished near the bottom despite having a competitive roster.
Qalandars have managed to keep their core intact, with Rashid Khan returning as their key overseas signing, and Shaheen Shah Afridi given a new role as captain. They will be concerned about the form of Mohammad Hafeez, though, because he has struggled to get going after getting among the runs in 2020. Qalandars have also picked up Yorkshire batter Harry Brook to strengthen the middle order, but he will miss the first three games, allowing a chance for Durham fast bowler Mathew Potts to chip in.
Afridi the fast bowler won the ICC's prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy and was recognised as the ICC Men's Cricketer of the Year for 2021. He took 78 wickets in 36 internationals at an average of 22.20 last year. His best performances came in the T20 World Cup, where he picked up seven wickets in six matches, including those of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in the group-stage fixture against India, helping steer Pakistan to the semi-finals. He will don a new hat this PSL season when he comes out leading Qalandars, captaining a team at the senior level for the very first time.
Coach: James Foster
Full squad: Wahab Riaz (capt), Hazratullah Zazai, Matt Parkinson, Haider Ali, Shoaib Malik, Sherfane Rutherford, Usman Qadir, Pat Brown, Hussain Talat, Salman Irshad, Arshad Iqbal, Sameen Gul, Kamran Akmal, Tom Kohler Cadmore, Sirajuddin, Arish Ali Khan, Ben Cutting, Mohammad Haris, Muhammad Umer, Sohail Khan, Imam-ul-Haq, Ammad Butt
Zalmi were on reboot mode last season after losing their ace, Hasan Ali, but still produced a strong performance as they went on to play their fourth PSL final, the most by any team. Zalmi won five out ten games, edging past Qalandars and Kings on net run-rate to finish third in the group stage. In the playoffs, they eliminated Kings and Islamabad United to storm into the final, only to falter in the last stage against Multan Sultans, falling well short in a chase of 207.
There have been some differences between the franchise and experienced batter Kamran Akmal, who has been having a lean patch lately. The 40-year-old Akmal had initially refused to play for Zalmi, stating that he was "humiliated" at not being picked in the highest category at the auction. Zalmi eventually cleared the air with him and confirmed that Akmal was a part of their plans, as is wicketkeeper Mohammad Haris. However, Akmal is likely to miss the initial stage of the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19. Zalmi have roped in Imam-ul-Haq as his replacement.
Haider Ali was unleashed as an emerging player in the fifth edition of the PSL in 2020 and he became the youngest to score a fifty in the league for Zalmi. He had a blistering start to his international career as well, making a fifty on his T20I debut against England. However, Haider has had his share of disappointments after that initial success. He has a T20 strike rate of 139.04, and Zalmi will be banking on him as a fully developed batter this season.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent