All you need to know about PSL 2024

16 Feb 2024

It's February, which means it must be time for the end of the SA20.

The ILT20?
Try again.

The Bangladesh Pr…
I'm going to stop you right there. The PSL. It's time for the PSL, the original showstopper of this window in the calendar.

My bad. It's been around for a while now.
Indeed, this season is the ninth season of the PSL, which makes it a veteran among T20 franchise leagues. The durability is truly worth celebrating given the obstacles it faced in getting off the ground and then, once up and running, not able to play out in Pakistan for the first few seasons.

Hurrah! The league must be stronger than ever, then.
Not so much. In large part this is because of the administrative flux within the board over the last few months. Nobody's been in charge long enough to really take charge of this season. Plus, polarising general elections in the country last week have taken up plenty of the national bandwidth.

Ah right. Still, some big-name regulars on the global T20 circuit will perk things up.
All the big local stars are there, of course, from Shaheen Shah Afridi to Babar Azam to Mohammad Rizwan to Shadab Khan. And in Shane Watson (Quetta Gladiators), Mike Hesson (Islamabad United), Phil Simmons (Karach Kings) and Daren Sammy (Peshawar Zalmi) the league has a high-profile head coach roster.

I'm sensing a 'but'…
Well, the star quotient in the foreign player roster seems to have taken a hit this season. A number of high-profile names have either pulled out entirely (Rashid Khan, Lungi Ngidi, Reece Topley, Noor Ahmad and Tom Curran) or have limited availability (Rassie van der Dussen, Tabraiz Shamsi and Wanindu Hasaranga).

But there's also a broader sense that with more money on offer in the ILT20 and SA20, and in more attractive destinations, the PSL might be the league the bigger names choose to skip in this cramped window.

Now I'm sensing an 'although' here.

Although, like the CPL, the accent at the PSL has always been towards its local players. Think of the number of established local players it has given a platform to, as well as the frenzy each season as a new kid is unearthed. Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Ihsanullah, Mohammad Haris, Zaman Khan and so, so many others are inextricably linked with the league.

Similarly, this season will be driven by the prospects of Saim Ayub stepping up, the bigger stage for the tall and rising fast bowler Mohammad Zeeshan (both at Peshawar Zalmi); Faisal Akram, a rare (for Pakistan) left-arm wristspinner (Multan Sultans); the allrounder Arafat Minhas at Karachi Kings; or even the long-awaited return from injury of Naseem Shah, now with Islamabad United.

Those are the players - which teams should I be looking out for?
One of the endearing attributes of the PSL is how even the playing field has always felt. Each of the six franchises has won the league at least once but none have yet established a dynasty proper. As defending champions, Lahore Qalandars have a legitimate shot at it, having made the final three out of the last four seasons and won the last two. Without Rashid though, they're missing a quality spinner, though those pacers (Shaheen, Haris and Zaman) eh?

Multan have been the other powerhouse in recent editions (runners-up the last two seasons) and last season were a single run away from forcing a Super Over in last season's final. They look good again this season though most intriguing might be the step up for Abdul Rehman as head coach; Pakistan don't often do right by their local coaches but Rehman has worked his way up assiduously.

And the others?

Islamabad are the data divas' dream and roping in Mike Hesson as coach will do nothing to dispel that. The arrival of Naseem Shah alone would be a game-changing upgrade for a pace attack that last season looked a little lightweight (Fazalhaq Farooqi apart). But the other two Shah brothers Ubaid (among the leading wicket-takers at the just-concluded U19 World Cup) and Hunain as well? Your social media timelines are going to be blowing up with highlights.

Quetta will be the most interesting. Once the league's most consistent side, they've swiftly become its least successful over the last four seasons. But this feels like a season of change. Shane Watson is in as head coach, Shaun Tait as the bowling coach, Sarfaraz Ahmed is out as captain, PSL legend Rilee Roussow is in, Mohammad Amir's smarts will be more than handy and Abrar Ahmed should be a focal point in the bowling attack. Suddenly, they're feeling a lot fresher than they have for years.

Karachi and Peshawar are not bringing up the rear exactly, but they do feel somewhat less shiny than the others. Karachi have new leadership in Phil Simmons and Shan Masood; Peshawar have Shamar Joseph. But Peshawar's attack apart from Joseph feels light and Karachi look like they've erred too far on the side of experience.

My mouth, it is watering. Hit me with the who, what, when and where.

Kicks off Saturday with Lahore taking on Islamabad, 34 matches over the next 30 days, across four venues in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

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