Although star-studded with the likes of Mohammad Amir, Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakkara, Ravi Bopara, Kieron Pollard, Sohail Khan and Imad Wasim, the Karachi Kings have had mixed fortunes over the last two years. They faltered in the first season, winning just two out of eight group stage matches despite having several international stars. The series of defeats also led to a number of captaincy changes, but Karachi Kings found no respite as they finished second-last in the 2016 season.
They made a decent comeback in the second edition, finishing third in the group stage after crushing title defenders Islamabad United in the eliminator. However, Peshawar Zalmi ousted them in the second qualifier.
Karachi have rejigged their entire squad, releasing Shoaib Malik to bring in retired allrounder Shahid Afridi as their platinum player after trading with Peshawar Zalmi. He ended his two-year association with the team over reported differences with its owner Javed Afridi.
Afridi had missed the final with a finger injury he picked up during the playoffs in the UAE. In 10 matches last season, he had scored 177 runs at 25.28 with a strike rate of 173.52, and had taken two wickets at an economy of 6.75. He had also captained Peshawar in the inaugural edition of the tournament, before handing over to Darren Sammy.
England's Tymal Mills has been roped in to replace Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson who had pulled out of the tournament weeks before, citing personal reasons. First choice opener Luke Wright also ruled himself out over fitness concerns forcing the side to pick another Englishman, Joe Denly. Sangakkara, Gayle, Ryan McLaren, Kashif Bhatti, Shahzaib Hasan, Pollard and Mahela Jayawardena were released to bring in new crop. Karachi also brought in wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan from Lahore Qalandars in exchange for Sohail Khan.
Karachi's best feature is their strong and refreshing blend of bowling options. They have Mohammad Amir who can lead the attack and can sign off dealing with death overs. Usman Khan is a young fast bowler can provide breakthroughs while left-arm quick Tymal Mills can trip the opposition batting with his pace. The team also has a number of spinners - veteran Shahid Afridi, Imad Wasim and legspinner Usama Mir.
The middle order, centered around Afridi and Bopara, needs a dash of a few young and capable allrounders, as the veteran duo cannot be heavily relied on. On paper, their batting options look less threatening. They might expect their middle order to fire in case names like Babar Azam and Colin Ingram at the top fail.
Key foreign players
Eoin Morgan, Colin Ingram and Lendl Simmons are the ones who can make the difference. Morgan smacked 80 not out at 173.91 against New Zealand in Hamilton to mark his form just days before the start of PSL, while Ingram made a number of big scores at the Big Bash League. Simmons, a T20 specialist, played just four matches in the 2017 Bangladesh Premier League and made 94 runs.
Under-the-radar local lads
Hasan Mohsin finished the 2016 U-19 World Cup as the best allrounder, scoring 293 runs at 97.66 and picking up 11 wickets at 14.81. He has recently announced himself in the Grade I cricket in Pakistan domestic, where he played five first-class and nine List A games for Pakistan Television and scored a total of 356 runs and picked 18 wickets. The 20-year old started his cricket as a legspinner but later switched to medium-pace. The PSL could be a turning point in his career, especially if he fills in as the match-winner.