Low-profile Quetta need home-grown stars to rise to the occasion

Low-profile Quetta need home-grown stars to rise to the occasion

History

Quetta Gladiators made the title round in the first two seasons of the Pakistan Super League before going down to Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi respectively, and were then knocked out by one run in the first Eliminator in 2018, to the Zalmi again. The absence of key players – Kevin Pietersen and Shane Watson prime among them – for the Pakistan leg of the tournament hampered the side in the past two seasons. Pietersen has now called time on his playing career, but Watson is still going strong in T20 leagues around the world, and will add experience and expertise to the Gladiators line-up, who will be led by Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Team overview

Quetta aren’t among the high-profile sides, but they have a number of proven T20 stalwarts like Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo and Watson. Rilee Rossouw, who had an excellent stint with Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League recently, and Fawad Ahmed, who has revived his T20 career of late, lend good depth to the overseas contingent. It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Fawad, who played his cricket in Pakistan before relocating to Australia.

The concern for the Gladiators is whether the local players can provide a strong support act to the stars. Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad – picked up in the supplementary category after Multan Sultans released him last season – are two of the big names in the squad, but are not on the radar of the national team at the moment. They will look to impress in the PSL to stake their claims, and the opponents are more than aware of how dangerous the two could be.

Mohammad Asghar and Jalat Khan, meanwhile, add some much-needed local flavour to the side.

Strengths

Spin. Narine and Mohammad Nawaz will relish bowling on the slow, low tracks in the UAE and Pakistan. While Nawaz is known to be miserly, Narine is capable of performing the dual role of taking wickets as well as being economical, not to forget the entertainment he provides with the bat. He was central to Dhaka Dynamites’ run to the BPL final, chipping in with the bat to score 279 runs in 15 innings at a strike rate of 143.07 and also taking 18 wickets at an economy rate of 6.35. He’s clearly in form.

Weaknesses

Quetta don’t have enough depth in their seam attack, though Sohail Tanvir and Bravo bring a fair amount of T20 expertise to the table, and the middle order is also a cause for concern. Umar Akmal often blows hot and blows cold, so who will step into Pietersen’s shoes this season?

Key foreign player

Watson won the IPL with Chennai Super Kings in 2018, starring in the final with an unbeaten 57-ball 117, and more recently struck a hundred for Sydney Thunder in the BBL. Watson is 37, but he still has it in him to make a big difference, even if he doesn’t bowl as much as he used to.

Under-the-radar local players

Fifteen-year-old seamer Naseem Shah impressed for Pakistan Under-19s, and was in line to make his PSL debut, but a back injury has sidelined him for the season. But his replacement is another exciting teenaged tearaway – Mohammad Hasnain. The Hyderabad boy is among the fastest in the country, having impressed with his pace in the 2016 Under-19 Asia Cup. He also played two first-class matches for Pakistan Television last season.

Squad

Local: Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt), Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Nawaz, Umar Akmal, Anwar Ali, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Asghar, Danish Aziz, Ahsan Ali, Ghulam Muddassir, Ahmed Shehzad, Azam Khan, Jalat Khan, Mohammad Irfan Jr, Mohammad Hasnain.

Overseas: Sunil Narine (West Indies), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Shane Watson (Australia), Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), Fawad Ahmed (Australia), Harry Gurney (England), Dwayne Smith (West Indies, cover for Bravo).

Coaching staff: Viv Richards (mentor), Moin Khan (head coach), Abdul Razzaq (bowling coach), Julien Fountain (fielding coach).

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