Just 3 months after becoming PSL champions for the first time, Karachi Kings are gearing up for PSL 6 and will be hoping to become the first PSL team to successfully defend their title.
Despite qualifying for the play-offs in all editions from 2016-2019, Karachi Kings never looked like genuine title contenders in any of these seasons, and always seemed inferior to the likes of Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi. Last season, however, they looked like a force to be reckoned with from the get-go. They started their campaign with a victory over Peshawar Zalmi; the victory was fittingly set up by Babar Azam who would go on to become the player of the tournament. They played excellent cricket throughout the group stage and were impressive in all aspects of the game.
Wasim Akram was appointed interim coach following the tragic death of Dean Jones, and Karachi Kings, by the skin of their teeth, qualified for the final, after that thrilling super over victory against Multan Sultans. They would go on to meet rivals Lahore Qalandars in the final, and while there was plenty of excitement for the first-ever Karachi-Lahore final, the match itself failed to live up to the hype – a comfortable victory for Karachi Kings at their home ground in a low-scoring affair, as they dedicated their maiden title to the late Dean Jones.
This season, they have a rejigged personnel in terms of the coaching line-up. Wasim Akram will still be involved with the team as a bowling mentor & president, while the newly appointed Herschelle Gibbs and Dougie Browne will take over as the Head Coach and Assistant Coach respectively.
Imad Wasim will lead the side once again – the defending champions have retained the core of their title-winning squad from last season. Keeping Babar Azam was a no-brainer, while they also persisted with the likes of Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, and Waqas Maqsood. One of the major talking points was their decision to trade Alex Hales with Colin Ingram. While it does make sense to switch a third opener with a middle-order batsman, only time will tell whether Karachi offloaded the right opener. Since his comeback, Sharjeel Khan has struggled to get going – he was poor in both the PSL and the National T20 Cup, while Hales averaged 45.33 in the previous PSL. Hales was also the leading run-scorer in the recently concluded Big Bash League.
As for the recruits, the draft saw them pick up a variety of players, ranging from experienced international names to up and coming local players. Dan Christian and Mohammad Nabi are two dynamic all-rounders who have played in T20 leagues all across the globe. They have strengthened their bowling stocks with the selection of highly talented pace bowler Mohammad Ilyas, while in the batting department they have picked Zeeshan Malik and home-town boy Danish Aziz. Big things will be expected of Aziz, particularly in run-chases: The left-hander averages 47 and 64.5 when chasing in T20 cricket and List A cricket respectively.
He saved his best performance in the PSL for when it mattered the most, showing no signs of pressure as he picked up 2-26 from his 4 overs in the final against Lahore Qalandars. In the National T20 Cup, the right-arm pacer had the best economy rate in the tournament, conceding less than 6.5 an over – a stat made even more impressive when you consider he bowled in the powerplay!
An off-spinning all-rounder, one thing that stood out with Qasim Akram in the domestic tournament was his calmness under pressure. He had 7 scores of 50+ across formats, and on several occasions, he scored runs when Central Punjab was at risk of collapsing, showing great mental strength for an 18-year-old.
- The international experience of Mohammad Amir. The variations of Waqas Maqsood. The tight lines of Arshad Iqbal. The wicket-taking ability of Mohammad Ilyas. With 2 experienced left-handers and 2 youthful right-handers, Karachi Kings arguably have the most balanced pace-bowling line-up, with each bowler posing unique challenges for the opposition batsmen.
- Destructive lower-order. They have strengthened their batting significantly, and their lower middle order looks particularly dangerous. Dan Christian (SR 139.62), Mohammad Nabi (SR 140.73), and Danish Aziz (SR 138.41) are all extremely destructive batsmen when on song, while Aamer Yamin (SR 135.62) can also whack a few lusty blows. If they all bat to their potential, no total will be beyond the reach of Karachi.
- Wicket-keeping – With every passing innings, Karachi Kings’ decision not to retain Mohammad Rizwan looks more and more questionable. Chadwick Walton struggled in the PSL last season, failing to register a single 50+ score. The Kings do not have any local full-time wicket-keepers, and while Joe Clarke kept wicket for England Under-19s, he rarely keeps in domestic cricket and is also rather inexperienced in Asian conditions. Having scored two international centuries in the past week, Multan Sultans will definitely not be complaining that Rizwan was let go by the defending champions.
- Lack of an experienced specialist spinner – Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nabi can keep things tight, but they are unlikely to rip through a batting line-up – they both average less than a wicket per match in T20 cricket. Young Afghanistani wrist-spinner Noor Ahmad is in the squad, but he is yet to play an international game.
- Classy. Elegant. Stylish. You already know who I’m referring to, don’t you? More than a quarter of runs scored by Karachi Kings last season came off Babar Azam’s bat. The national captain has proven that power-hitting isn’t a necessity in T20 cricket. His cover drives are a treat to watch, he is remarkably consistent and, most importantly, he is a match-winner. It’s no surprise he’s the #4 T20I batsman in the world.
- Colin Ingram is back at the Karachi Kings, where he set the PSL record for the highest individual score, scoring 127* in a stunning chase against Quetta Gladiators. The left-hander finished the 2019 season as the highest run-scorer for the Kings and he will be hoping for similar success.
- He may be approaching the twilight years of his career, but Dan Christian is in the form of his life. He was the Man of the Match in the NatWest T20 Blast final in October as he led Nottinghamshire to the title – Imad Wasim was also part of the squad. More recently, Christian was part of the Sydney Sixers side that won the Big Bash League, averaging 34 with a phenomenal strike rate of 182.55. The Australian will be hoping to win his third major T20 trophy in less than half a year.
The Kings seem to have a stronger squad than last year, mainly due to a superior middle order, and they have a good leader in Imad Wasim. They have plenty of experience in their team with the addition of Mohammad Nabi and Dan Christian, while Babar Azam will be expected to churn out runs once again. When you combine this with a solid bowling line-up, you have a team that is very hard to beat. I am backing Karachi Kings to go all the way once again this year.