Pakistan Super League promises to give exciting moments to the millions of fans around the world. It will have master blasters who will smash boundaries and sixes at will. That is what crowds all over the world like. Although Twenty20 is inclined heavily towards the batsmen there will be some clever bowlers who will do their best to counter them. These clever bowlers will not only stop the flow of runs but will also hit the stumps with lethal yorkers.
Here are a dozen, two from each team, who will be the players to watch in PSL 3. So tighten your belts and get ready for action from the destructive DOZEN.
He may be at the end of his career. He may have retired from international cricket. He may have been fading. But Shahid Afridi still is the heartthrob of legions of fans.
Afridi has switched to Karachi Kings and in his own words “wants to do one last hurrah for my city where I was brought up and made my name as a cricketer.”
During his blistering career, Shahid Afridi won many a match for Pakistan and millions of hearts. The swing of his bat, swing the moods in the stands. If he thrives, the crowds exhilarate. If he fails, the crowds go in mourning.
With a ball in his hand, Afridi can be equally destructive. He bamboozled the best of batters with his leg-breaks, googlies, and flippers. Once he gets a wicket or takes a catch his trademark style of celebration — arms-raised-fingers-pointing-towards-the-sky-feet-apart celebration – has etched in memories.
Shahid Afridi will once again be the toast of Pakistan Super League.
148.35, 137.39 and 133.33 — these are strike rates of Australian sensation Chris Lynn in List A Twenty20, Twenty20 internationals and one-day internationals. Just the strike rates tell you the destructive style of Lynn’s batting. He can castigate any attack, any bowler on any pitch. So get ready for his master blaster acts. Lynn can hit as hard as anyone in the game, whatever be the length of the ball.
The only worry Lahore could have about Lynn is his vulnerable fitness as well as his lack of exposure on flat, slow and spin-assisting pitches of United Arab Emirates.
Kamran Akmal gives a fillip to the Zalmi batting at the top of the order. He has been in magnificent form in the recently concluded domestic limited over the season, smashing a double hundred in the departmental one-day tournament and 150 not out in the National Twenty20.
Kamran’s ability to change the state of a limited overs game is notable. He was the mainstay for Peshawar Zalmi’s title-winning campaign in PSL 2, notching 353 runs with one hundred and a strike rate of 129.30.
Kevin Pietersen is the mainstay of Quetta Gladiators’ batting and in the final year of his career, he promises a stand out farewell.
Although he did not shine as Quetta had hoped in the first edition, scoring 215 runs at 26.87 with just one fifty but his contributions off the field and his guiding the youngsters in the fighting unit of Quetta was notable.
Then in the second edition, he managed 241 runs a relatively better average of 34.42 with 88 not out as his best. That innings spiced with three fours and eight towering sixes at Sharjah stadium could be ranked as the most memorable innings of the PSL history. He helped Quetta chased 201 run target set by Lahore.
Abdre Russell is a two-in-one player who has been the man in demand in all the leagues around the world. His name is linked to Twenty20 league champions around the world, having won titles with Sydney Thunders, Kolkatta Knight Riders, Islamabad United and Jamaica Tallawahs.
Russell is a big and forceful hitter of the cricket ball. He can hit the ball as far as to the farthest stand and can run as fast as a hare.
With his 16 wickets in the inaugural edition of the PSL, he played a key role in Islamabad United’s title win.
Russell had to miss the second edition of the PSL after he was banned for one year over doping whereabouts. Islamabad United missed him a great deal and once he was available Russell was retained for PSL 3.
Russell is an outstanding player in the outfield, having pulled some extraordinary catches.
Kieron Pollard is the man in demand for Twenty20 leagues around the world and that has halted his international career with the West Indies. That is because he can change a game with the swirl of the bat, a wicket with a cleverly disguised delivery or an outstanding catch in the deep. That makes Pollard a valuable player.
The tall Trinidadian will be playing for new entrants Multan Sultans after a not-so-successful season with Karachi Kings. He made 201 in ten matches but the crucial innings of 47 not out and then a match-turning 45 not out off just 20 balls with four sixes, last two off Aamer Yamin clinched a play-off place for KK and relegated Lahore to the last spot for the second year running.
Pollard is a key man for Multan as they would seek a whirlwind knock form the West Indies in crucial matches.
Mohammad Amir is the spearhead of Karachi Kings and although he did not get as many wickets his team was looking for but the impact was notable. Amir has rarely gone very expensive and his economy is notable.
Amir took seven wickets with a hat trick over Lahore Qalandars which helped Karachi Kings qualify for the playoffs.
Despite not taking many wickets Amir has been an impact bowler at international level. He managed just two wickets — both against Sri Lanka — in the first three games of the Champions trophy but then made a huge impact in the final against India, dismissing Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan to help Pakistan win the trophy.
Amir can make that impact in the PSL3 but he has to do that in the crucial matches as his lack of wickets are hurting his reputation as well as making his place in the team vulnerable.
Shadab Khan can be termed as the real product of the PSL’s inaugural season. Although he had played the junior World Cup for Pakistan just a few days ahead of the start of the PSL his name only propped up in the second edition of the league.
Shadab was the joint highest wicket-taker for Pakistan — 11 with Hasan Mohsin — and was wisely picked up by Islamabad United as an emerging player.
Shadab is a clever leg-break bowler who is not afraid to give air to the ball, pitch it up and bowl a googly. Shadab fetched nine wickets in eight games and made a huge impact which brought him into the Pakistan team the same month, barely 20 days after the PSL two. He made an instant in his debut Twenty20 – taking 3-7 in an outstanding spell of four overs against the West Indies at Barbados.
Shadab is handy with the bat as well, an attribute he showed in a Twenty20 against Sri Lanka. He smashed a last over six to seal the victory for Pakistan after Sri Lanka had hit back in the final overs.
Sohail Khan is a wicket-taking bowler who is ideally suited for the limited over versions of the game. He runs fast and aims for the stumps with a sharp yorker and a swing delivery. Sohail did not make much impact in the first edition, taking just four wickets in five matches.
But his 16 wickets in the second edition of the PSL made him the best bowler of the tournament. Still, his unimpressive fielding prompted Karachi Kings to release him. Sohail’s new team Lahore Qalandars will look to him to take as many wickets as he did in PSL 2 as their powerful batting unit can give Sohail an ideal total to attack.
Sohail did miss the regional one day cup with a back problem so his fitness will be the key if he wants to do the destructive acts.
Imran Tahir has also been a player in demand at international level. He has played around the world, the most in counties in England.
Tahir is an attacking leg-spinner who looks to unrest the batsmen with his guile. He is also not afraid to get hit as he uses his variety to dismantle the best of the batsmen. Tahir made a huge impact in last year’s IPL with Rising Pune Super Giants, taking 18 wickets at 20.50 and that against batsmen who play the spin well was admirable.
Tahir, who played his early cricket for Pakistan before migrating to South Africa, will be featuring in the PSL for the first time and will be an X-factor for the new team Multan Sultans. Tahir does his best in the field as well, taking some good catches and saving runs in the outfield.
Wahab Riaz has become a Twenty20 specialist. He has done well in the shortest format at the international level, having been a regular for Pakistan in the format until last year.
Wahab has an effective yorker that brings a number of scalps for the Zalmi spearhead. At times he is expensive but his value in the attack cannot be devalued.
Wahab took 15 wickets in nine PSL matches in 2016 and that was the second best behind champions Islamabad United’s Andre Russell’s 16 wickets. Wahab was again the second highest wicket-taker in the next edition, 15 to Sohail Khan’s 16. That helped Peshawar Zalmi to lift the title in Lahore
Wahab may have lost his place in the national team but has done well at domestic level. He again finished as second best in the National Twenty20 this year, taking 12 wickets to Umaid Asif’s 14.
Mir Hamza will be the spearhead for Quetta as they will wait for Barbados born Jofra Archer who has been on the injury list and may miss a few games in PSL 3.
Mir Hamza is a well built left-arm bowler who can bowl as fast as 150kph. He has the knack of swinging the ball both ways and has developed the incoming delivery which is the main weapon for a left arm fast bowler.