There were lots of ifs and buts, but the 2021 Pakistan Super League is finally set to resume from June 9 in Abu Dhabi. The remaining 20 encounters, including the playoffs, will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. The first 14 matches of the sixth edition of the tournament were held in Pakistan (February 20-March 3), but the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in the country and within the bio-secure bubble forced the tournament to be postponed.
There were talks of the remaining matches to be held in Karachi, but given the coronavirus scenario in Pakistan, it was decided to move the tournament out of the country. The Pakistan Cricket Board received the required approvals and exemptions from the UAE government last month, which had initially stalled the confirmation.
Talking about the first half of the tournament, Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi, Islamabad United, and Lahore Qalandars have won three games each so far, while Multan Sultans and Quetta Gladiators have both lost four of their five encounters.
As expected, there are quite a few players who have made themselves unavailable for the remainder of the competition, but the organizing committee carried out a mini replacement draft on May 22. The franchises were allowed to replace those players and also pick two additional players in their original squads.
So, let's look at the changes made, their impact, and how these six franchises have fared so far in PSL 2021.
Players left: Colin Ingram, Mohammad Nabi, Dan Christian, Joe Clarke.
Players added: Mohammad Haris Khan, Thisara Perera, Martin Guptill, Najibullah Zadran.
Squad: Imad Wasim (c), Abbas Afridi, Aamer Yamin, Arshad Iqbal, Babar Azam, Chadwick Walton, Danish Aziz, Martin Guptill, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Ilyas, Mohammad Haris, Thisara Perera, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ahmad, Qasim Akram, Sharjeel Khan, Waqas Maqsood, Zeeshan Malik.
Performance so far: Karachi were in pretty solid form before the tournament was suspended, with Babar Azam (258) and Sharjeel Khan (200) doing the majority of the scoring. Only Mohammad Rizwan (297) has scored more runs than them in the competition so far. They have lost their entire middle-order unit - Ingram, Clarke, Christian, and Nabi - and the onus will be on Azam and Sharjeel to keep their form going.
They have managed to get solid replacements in Perera, Guptill, and Zadran and will need them to be at their best from the word go. Sharjeel (15) has smoked the most number of sixes so far and he will now be accompanied by Perera and Guptill who are equally ruthless. Karachi have chased down targets of 196 and 189, but have also failed to defend totals of 196 and 186. They have clearly struggled in the bowling department and will need more from the likes of Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim.
Players left: Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Liam Livingstone, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Ravi Bopara, Saqib Mahmood.
Players added: Bismillah Khan, Fabian Allen (partially available), Fidel Edwards (partially available), Rovman Powell, Hazratullah Zazai.
Squad: Wahab Riaz (c), Abrar Ahmed, Amad Butt, Bismillah Khan, David Miller (partially available), Fabian Allen (partially available), Fidel Edwards (partially available), Haider Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Amir Khan, Mohammad Irfan Snr, Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Imran Randhawa, Rovman Powell, Waqar Salamkheil, Sherfane Rutherford, Shoaib Malik, Umaid Asif, Hazratullah Zazai.
Performance so far: Peshawar lost to Lahore in their season opener but then went on a three-match winning streak, before losing one to Karachi. Having picked up 12 wickets, Saqib Mahmood was the leading wicket-taker in the first half of the tournament but won't be available for the UAE leg. Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Imran have been impressive but they will be delighted with the inclusion of Fidel Edwards.
In Fabian Allen and Rovman Powell, Peshawar have managed to sign two fearsome all-rounders, giving them more depth in the line-up. However, Edwards and Allen won't be available for the playoffs as they will head back to West Indies for the South Africa series. In-form David Miller will give them some solidity in the middle-order, but the management would want some consistency from Haider Ali, Shoaib Malik, Imam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal. Hazratullah Zazai too could prove to be a match-winner.
Players left: Alex Hales, Lewis Gregory, Phil Salt.
Players added: Mohammad Akhlaq, Usman Khawaja, Umar Amin, Brandon King.
Squad: Shadab Khan (c), Ahmed Saifi Abdullah, Ali Khan, Akif Javed, Asif Ali, Colin Munro, Fawad Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Mohammad Akhlaq, Musa Khan, Rohail Nazir, Umar Amin, Brandon King, Usman Khawaja, Zafar Gohar, Zeeshan Zameer.
Performance so far: They will surely miss the firepower of Alex Hales in the batting department, especially in the powerplay. However, the arrival of Usman Khawaja, Colin Munro and Brandon King could do wonders if they manage to hit the ground running from the word go. The likes of Rohail Nazir, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Hussain Talat and Faheem Ashraf have all chipped in here and there and have clicked together as a batting unit.
Apart from Lahore, Islamabad are the only franchise that have lost just one game in the event so far. Hasan Ali (5.56 - economy), Ashraf (6.15) and Mohammad Wasim (7.5) have picked up 14 wickets between them and it's largely because of them Islamabad had the best economy rate in the Pakistan leg of the tournament. Hasan Ali has been in phenomenal form of late and could prove to be their MVP.
Players left: David Wiese, Joe Denly, Tom Abell, Samit Patel.
Players added: Tim David, Sultan Ahmed, Callum Ferguson, James Faulkner, Seekkuge Prasanna.
Squad: Sohail Akhtar (c), Ahmed Danyal, Ben Dunk, Callum Ferguson, Dilbar Hussain, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, James Faulkner, Maaz Khan, Mohammad Faizan, Mohammad Hafeez, Rashid Khan, Salman Ali Agha, Seekkuge Prasanna, Shaheen Afridi, Sultan Ahmed, Tim David, Zaid Alam and Zeeshan Ashraf.
Performance so far: On paper, Lahore look like the most balanced unit. They won't be too bothered by the departure of some of their foreign players, and in fact, they have got much better replacements. The likes of Tim David, Callum Ferguson and James Faulkner are all match-winners in this format, while the availability of ace legspinner Rashid Khan for the entire tournament will only boost their chances of lifting their maiden title.
In Mohammad Hafeez (181 runs), Fakhar Zaman (189) and Ben Dunk (80), Lahore already had enough experience in the batting order, but David will them more firepower in the latter half of the innings. Now that Rashid is back, and with the inclusion of Faulkner, Lahore's bowling looks even more threatening. Not to forget, they also have Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf.
Players left: Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Lynn, James Vince, Adam Lyth, Shahid Afridi (injured).
Players added: Shimron Hetmyer (partially available), Johnson Charles, Hammad Azam, Muhammad Waseem, Blessing Muzarabani, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Squad: Mohammad Rizwan (c), Hammad Azam, Imran Tahir, Imran Khan Snr, Johnson Charles, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Umar, Blessing Muzarabani, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rilee Rossouw, Shahnawaz Dhani, Shan Masood, Shimron Hetmyer (partially available), Sohaib Maqsood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sohaibullah, Sohail Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Usman Qadir, Waseem Muhammad.
Performance so far: Rizwan (297 runs at 59.40) is currently the leading run-scorer in PSL 2021, but despite his form, Multan have managed to win only one encounter. Sohaib Maqsood (135) and James Vince (174) were also in decent form but the latter won't be available for the remainder of the competition. Rilee Rossouw and Shahid Afridi struggled big time with the bat and the management will hope Johnson Charles, Shimron Hetmyer and Rahmanullah Gurbaz to come good. And, all three of them have been amongst runs of late.
Multan (21.5) have the worst bowling strike rate and the likes of Usman Qadir, Sohail Khan and Sohail Tanvir have simply not picked up enough wickets. Youngster Shahnawaz Dhani has been amongst wickets but has conceded runs at an economy of 10.33. They have got Blessing Muzarabani and the Zimbabwe fast bowler will be expected to play a huge role. And, more importantly, they will have to find a way to fit Imran Tahir in the playing XI.
Players left: Tom Banton, Dale Steyn.
Players added: Jack Wildermuth, Jake Weatherald, Khurram Shehzad, Zahir Khan, Andre Russell (partially available).
Squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Abdul Nasir, Andre Russell (partially available), Anwar Ali, Arish Ali Khan, Azam Khan, Cameron Delport, Faf du Plessis, Hassan Khan, Jack Wildermuth, Jake Weatherald, Khurram Shehzad, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Usman Khan, Usman Shinwari, Zahid Mahmood, Zahir Khan.
Performance so far: Quetta have the worst batting average (22.4) and bowling average (32.7) in PSL 2021 so far and that clearly tells you why they are at the bottom of the points table. Their NRR of -0.936 could come back to haunt them, but their fortunes could turn around now that they have Andre Russell in their set-up. "I have no doubts that the Purple Force will turn the tide and make its fans proud," said the hard-hitting all-rounder from West Indies.
Russell is an outright match-winner and Quetta have also roped in Jack Wildermuth, Jake Weatherald and Zahir Khan. Faf du Plessis too is in outstanding touch and they actually look solid on paper. Their bowling is a cause of concern and that's where Wildermuth, Zahir, Usman Shinwari and Russell to an extent will have to be at their best.