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Feature

Qalandars rebuild around Afridi; Sultans retain successful core

Qalandars have a lot of their player development programme imports in the mix while Sultans bought in Josh Little

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
11-Feb-2023
Shaheen Shah Afridi will be key as he leads Lahore Qalandars' title defence  •  AFP/Getty Images

Shaheen Shah Afridi will be key as he leads Lahore Qalandars' title defence  •  AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of the eighth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Karachi Kings and Peshawar Zalmi were previewed. In the second instalment, we look at how Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans shape up.

Lahore Qalandars

Captain: Shaheen Shah Afridi
Head coach: Aaqib Javed
Batting and fielding coach: Muhammad Shahzad Butt
Bowling coach: Waqas Ahmed
Full squad: Shaheen Shah Afridi (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Rashid Khan, David Wiese, Hussain Talat, Haris Rauf, Abdullah Shafique, Liam Dawson, Sikandar Raza, Ahmad Daniyal, Dilbar Hussain, Harry Brook, Kamran Ghulam, Mirza Tahir Baig, Shawaiz Irfan, Zaman Khan, Jalat Khan, Jordan Cox (wk), Ahsan Bhatti, Sam Billings (wk), Shane Dadswell, Shai Hope
Last season: Champions
Played in two finals in the last three seasons and won the last tournament with a roar. Finished second in the group stage with six wins and four defeats, losing to Multan Sultans in the Qualifier and eliminating Islamabad United in the playoff to make it into the final to take on Sultans again. Qalandars posted a challenging 180 after a shaky start, and it proved enough for them to lift the trophy.
Without a title until last season and finishing at the bottom for a long time, Qalandars turned the tables to redeem themselves, their magical season came with Afridi leading the team last season and giving them a new direction.
What's changed this season?
Qalandars have built a strong core around Afridi, who is returning from a knee injury, and they let go of veteran Hafeez. Fakhar Zaman was released and re-picked in the draft along with Haris Rauf, Wiese and Rashid Khan. They also have an eye on the future, with Kamran Ghulam and Abdullah Shafique in the mix. They have also selected as many as six players from their player development program (PDP) with fast bowler Jalat Khan and batters Tahir Baig and Ahsan Bhatti being the notable names from the Qalandars High Performance Center class of 2022.
But Rashid won't be available for the first three games, while Brook will miss out due to national duty with England. Qalandars also had a double blow by losing Jordan Cox, the wicketkeeper-batter (England national duty), and later Kusal Mendis (who didn't get a NOC) and ended up picking Sam Billings (partially available) and Shai Hope as replacements.
Players to watch
Qalandars PDP's poster boy Rauf has come a long way to become a star for the country while the franchise brought in another home-grown fast bowler Jalat. They continue investing in Zaman Khan, who already made an impact last season.
Key stats
Since May 2022, Sikandar Raza has bagged seven Player-of-the-Match awards in 38 T20s, only behind Suryakumar Yadav's eight. In this period, Raza has scored 954 runs with six fifties and a strike rate of over 140. With the ball, he has claimed 39 wickets while going at only 6.8 runs an over.
David Wiese has excelled with both bat and ball in every T20 league he has played in the past year. He scored 558 runs while striking at 160.80 in T20s and 36 wickets at an economy rate of 7.88 since the start of 2022. Wiese succeeds with his bowling at the death, going at only 8.60 and strikes at 206.18 with the willow in hand during the same phase.

Multan Sultans

Captain: Mohammad Rizwan
Head coach: Andy Flower
Assistant coach: Abdul Rehman
Assistant and spin bowling coach: Mushtaq Ahmed
Fast bowling coach: Ajmal Shehzad
Fielding coach: Richard Halsall
Full squad: Mohammad Rizwan (capt & wk), David Miller, Josh Little, Shan Masood, Khushdil Shah, Rilee Rossouw, Akeal Hosain, Shahnawaz Dahani, Tim David, Usama Mir, Sameen Gul, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Sarwar, Usman Khan, Arafat Minhas, Ihsanullah, Abbas Afridi, Kieron Pollard, Ammad Butt, Wayne Parnell, IzharulHaq Naveed.
Last season: Runners-up
Sultans had a blockbuster last season. The most consistent team lost only two games out of 12, including the final against Qalandars, in the entire season. No other team managed to win more than six games in the group stage. They have been the most successful franchise in terms of wins overall, finishing in the top two in the last three seasons and clinching the title in 2021.
What's changed this season?
Sultans retained their core intact with Mohammad Rizwan being the success story. Picked up through a trump card last season, Tim David was also retained but was demoted from the Platinum category to Gold. Shan Masood, Khushdil Shah, Rilee Rossouw, and Shahnawaz Dahani remain with the franchise. Abbas Afridi and Ihsanullah are the emerging-category retentions.
They bought Irish seamer Josh Little, who played for Manchester Originals in the Hundred, and took 2 for 16 in Ireland's victory over England in the T20 World Cup. With David - partially available for the season - Kieron Pollard and David Miller in the roster, they offer a blitz in the middle. Wayne Parnell is their leading overseas allrounder but is available subject to his fitness as he is nursing a groin injury that he picked up during the SA20.
Player to watch
Legspinner Usama Mir was recently rewarded with an ODI cap after a strong Pakistan Cup showing, where he finished as the highest wicket-taker with 28 strikes at 17.96. He had been part of Karachi Kings for four seasons between 2016 and 2020 and was outshined by allrounder Shadab Khan. But in the last year, he is trying to make up for his lost time. His performance in the upcoming season could give his career a new direction. Mir has four ODI wickets from three matches against New Zealand.
Key stats
Miller is among the best players of spin in T20 cricket, averaging 71.54 per dismissal and striking at 139.29 since the start of 2021. Three years before this period, he struck at only 122.14 against spin while being dismissed for every 33.46 runs.
Since 2021, Josh Little has an average of 17.14 and he strikes every 14.7 balls in T20s. His numbers are among the best when bowling to the top six in the batting order and he averages 18.72 against them, the second-best for any bowler who has bowled a minimum of 600 balls in this period.
Stats inputs from Sampath Bandarupalli

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent