In a fulfilling underdog story, Lahore Qalandars defied all odds last year under the young inspiring leadership of Shaheen Shah Afridi and became the Pakistan Super League champions after being knocked out from the group stage of four out of five previous seasons.
This year, they are kicking off the season with an encounter against Multan Sultans (runners-up of last season).
Lahore Qalandars with a fresh squad is aiming to defend their title and become the first team to win back-to-back PSL trophies.
They have made some significant changes in their lineup making it a well-balanced squad. They let go of the man of the match of last year’s final Mohammad Hafeez and roped in Sikandar Raza, who has set the T20 World Cup on fire with his all-round performances.
Let’s have a look at the complete squad and discuss their strengths and weaknesses:
Shaheen Shah Afridi (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Kamran Ghulam, Abdullah Shafique, Mirza Tahir Baig, Shane Dadswell, Sam Billings (wicketkeeper) Kusal Mendis (wicketkeeper), Jordan Cox (wicketkeeper), Shawaiz Irfan (wicketkeeper), Jalat Khan, Rashid Khan, Hussain Talat, David Wiese, Sikandar Raza, Liam Dawson, Haris Rauf, Dilbar Hussain, Ahmed Daniyal, Zaman Khan and Ahsan Bhatti.
Just like in previous seasons, Lahore Qalandars’ strength is their bowling attack, which is one of the best in the competition. Their pace attack is led by captain Shaheen Afridi, along with Haris Rauf, David Weise, Dilbar Hussain, and youngster Zaman Khan, whereas, in the spin department, they have Rashid Khan, who is joined by all-rounders Sikandar Raza and Liam Dawson.
Sikandar Raza’s inclusion also provided them with the much-needed balance due to his batting prowess. Their batting is also equipped with enough firepower to set the tournament on fire with Fakhar Zaman and Abdullah Shafique on top.
Kamran Ghulam will be settled in the middle order with hard-hitting youngster Tahir Baig. They have made good use of the replacement draft, having signed Sam Billings, who can single-handedly win matches for them.
Their major weakness is the lack of a regular wicketkeeper batter, all their keepers are either partially available or are replacement picks, except PJL prodigy Shahwaiz Irfan.
Another weakness is the lack of spin options, as Rashid Khan is partially available; they need a regular spin bowler to fill in his shoes.
Moreover, the absence of Harry Brook, who played a key role in their title-winning campaign, will be a massive blow, and a lack of experience in the middle-order is also expected to trouble Qalandars.
They haven’t signed any like-to-like replacement for Mohammad Hafeez.
And above all this, a major concern for Qalandars is the fitness of Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf. Shaheen Afridi has spent the majority of 2021 nursing his knee injury, while Haris Rauf also suffered a quad injury during the Test series against England back in December.
These two are the main pillars of their bowling, and any injury will be a major blow to their plans as they don’t have the bench strength to fill in their shoes; a good quality overseas pacer is a major missing in their lineup.
Lahore Qalandars’ major strength is their team spirit and unity. They are carrying almost the same lineup, which won the trophy last year. They have an overall decent, balanced squad to start with, a star-studded bowling attack, with a good batting line-up. However, their bench strength is a major concern.
They have talented youngsters who can be breakout stars, but they cannot be relied upon. Their senior players need to take responsibility with both hands to guide them to another triumph.
Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Kamran Ghulam, Sikandar Raza, Hussain Talat, Jordan Cox (w), David Weise, Rashid Khan, Shaheen Afridi (c), Haris Rauf, Zaman Khan
13 Feb: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans
19 Feb: Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars
21 Feb: Quetta Gladiators v Lahore Qalandars
26 Feb: Lahore Qalandars v Peshawar Zalmi
27 Feb: Lahore Qalandars v Islamabad United
2 March: Lahore Qalandars v Quetta Gladiators
4 March: Lahore Qalandars v Multan Sultans
7 March: Peshawar Zalmi v Lahore Qalandars
9 March: Islamabad United v Lahore Qalandars
12 March: Lahore Qalandars v Karachi Kings