PSL 2019: Babar Azam, Wahab Riaz and other Pakistan players to watch out for

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Babar Azam will be key for Karachi Kings.

The fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is all set to get underway in Dubai on Friday with defending champions Islamabad United taking on Multan Sultans in the opener.

Ever since its inception in 2014, the PSL has been serving up some exciting T20 action with the fourth edition promising to be the biggest yet.

A host of international stars will showcase their wares in the competition but there will be no shortage of Pakistan’s domestic talent on display.

Here, we look at six Pakistan players who will be extremely key for their respective franchises.

ISLAMABAD UNITED

Shadab Khan

With a T20 economy-rate of just 6.56, Shadab Khan is one of the premier bowlers going around in the format. The leg-spinner had a slow start to his campaign last year but then grew in form as the tournament progressed with his nine wickets playing a key part in Islamabad United’s run to their second PSL title.

Still only a 20-year-old, Shadab’s stock has been rising in international cricket ever since he made his Pakistan debut in 2017. The leg-spinner has already established himself as a leading figure in Pakistan’s limited-overs setup and has made 32 T20I appearances for the Men in Green.

His stature as an all-rounder continues to grow too with his batting abilities lower down the order a vital asset.

Shadab will Islamabad's X-factor.

Shadab will be Islamabad’s X-factor.

KARACHI KINGS

Babar Azam

There is no doubt that Karachi’s hopes of a maiden PSL title will rest primarily on the shoulders of Pakistan stalwart Babar Azam. The top-order batsman has been in a sensational run of form, especially in T20Is and put in some excellent displays on the recent tour of South Africa.

The 24-year-old has been drawing comparisons to Virat Kohli ever since he broke into international cricket and it is hard not to see why. Babar has played a big part in Pakistan’s rise as the top-ranked teams in T20 cricket with a batting average of almost 54.

He is the No1 ranked T20I batsman for a reason and if he gets going for Karachi, it will be difficult to look past them for the title.

Babar is in excellent form currently.

Babar is in excellent form currently.

LAHORE QALANDARS

Fakhar Zaman

Lahore Qalandars have landed the big fish in the form of AB de Villiers and will no doubt be emboldened by the capture of the South African ace. However, equally important for them in the campaign will be the contributions from Fakhar Zaman at the top of the innings.

The Pakistan opener comes into the PSL on the back of some poor showings on the tour of South Africa but the T20 competition could be the perfect opportunity for him to rediscover his form.

The only Pakistani to register an ODI double ton, Fakhar is as dangerous a batsman as they come in the limited-overs formats. He has a T20 career strike-rate of over 138 and he has the capacity to turn the game on its head in the space of just a few deliveries with his explosive shot-making.

Fakhar will be eager to find form.

Fakhar will be eager to find form.

MULTAN SULTANS

Shahid Afridi

The veteran all-rounder might have long hung up his international boots for Pakistan but he still remains one of the most in-demand players when it comes to franchise cricket.

At the age of 38, Afridi continues to grow strong and he has always been a consistent performer when it comes to the PSL. No bowler to have played at least 20 PSL matches has a better economy-rate than Afridi who has conceded just 6.54 runs an over in 29 appearances.

‘Boom Boom’ Afridi will no doubt delight the crowds with his outrageous shots but it is his bowling which is his and Multan’s biggest asset. A veteran of 295 T20 matches, Afridi has picked up a total of 323 scalps with nine four-wicket hauls to his name.

With his experience and charisma, expect Afridi to be the main man for the Sultans.

Afridi continues to grown strong.

Afridi continues to grown strong.

PESHAWAR ZALMI

Wahab Riaz

Wahab Riaz’s international career for Pakistan might not have fulfilled the early promise he showed but when it comes to the PSL, there aren’t many better pacers than him.

The left-armed pacer is the all-time leading wicket-taker in the competition’s history with 48 scalps to his name in 32 appearances.

His 15 wickets in the 2016-17 edition of the tournament was crucial to Peshawar Zalmi’s title win and he followed that season up by finishing as the joint highest wicket-taker in 2018 with 18 scalps in 13 games.

The 33-year-old still harbours ambitions of making the Pakistan World Cup squad and the PSL could be the perfect opportunity to stake his claim.

Wahab is PSL's all-time leading wicket-taker.

Wahab is PSL’s all-time leading wicket-taker.

QUETTA GLADIATORS

Ahmed Shehzad

The upcoming PSL will be a great chance for Ahmed Shehzad to remind Pakistan of his talents after being in the wilderness for the past few months.

The top-order batsman has been missing from international cricket ever since he was served with a four-month ban for an anti-doping violation last year. His ban was further extended after he broke the terms of the punishment with 2018 ending up a write-off for him ultimately.

As such, there will be no better window for Shehzad to catch the national team’s attentions than the PSL. The right-hander remains the only Pakistan batsman to ever record a T20I ton and his talent with the bat has never been in question.

Quetta will need their domestic stars to fire big time in the competition and they will be expecting plenty of runs at the top from Shehzad’s bat.

An excellent opportunity for Shehzad.

An excellent opportunity for Shehzad.

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