PSL 2021: Quetta Gladiators Preview

Statistically the most consistent team in the PSL, Quetta Gladiators will be looking to shake off the disappointment of last season and get going again.

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Introduction

Take any of the five seasons of the Pakistan Super League, and you will notice the same trend over and over again when it comes to Quetta Gladiators. They have been heavily dependant, or rather over-reliant on a) their foreign batsmen and b) their spinners. Nothing explains this better than the fact that out of Gladiators’ top five run-scorers, three are foreigners, with all of them – Shane Watson, Rilee Rossouw, and Kevin Pietersen – having played only three out of the five editions for the franchise.

In the spin department, Mohammad Nawaz has been the constant since Day 1. He has the most wickets (49) for any spinner in PSL history, while the likes of Zulfiqar Babar, Hassan Khan, and Fawad Ahmed have predominantly revolved around him over the 5 years.

In the previous edition, Gladiators failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time and it could be put down to both components malfunctioning for them. Mohammad Nawaz and Fawad Ahmed managed to scalp a total of ten wickets amongst themselves at a not so ideal average of 37.3 and strike rate of 27.7. Meanwhile, in the batting department, none of their batsmen made it to the top ten run-scorers of the tournament. Their top scorer; Shane Watson (again a foreigner), was 14th on the list.

On the coaching front, it will be interesting to see how the new bowling coach Umar Gul works with the local pace trio of Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, and Usman Shinwari, all of whom have represented Pakistan but haven’t been able to cement a spot for themselves in the national team. He will be working under Head Coach Moin Khan and team mentor Sir Vivian Richards, who will be in the dugout to pump up the boys and give the audience some priceless moments yet again.

Squad Overview

Gladiators don’t trust the local batsmen! Much like the previous editions, they have placed their confidence in the foreign players yet again in the batting department. The trio of Chris Gayle, Tom Banton, and Cameron Delport will have the responsibility of carrying the batting, while Faf du Plessis will offer another top-order option in Chris Gayle’s absence. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed & Azam Khan are the wicket-keeping options and it would be interesting to see where they slot into the batting lineup. Right-handed batsman Usman Khan, the 25-year-old who was picked in the supplementary category, hasn’t played a single T20 game, and he’s unlikely to do so in this tournament.

Gladiators’ have all the bases covered when it comes to bowling. Mohammad Hasnain has been breathing fire and has consistently put up good performances in the domestics. Hasnain will be accompanied by Naseem Shah and Usman Shinwari, making it one of the fiercest local pace trios in the league. Dale Steyn, though at the fag end of his career, is too good to be a supplementary player. His wealth of experience would be something Gladiators would be banking on in crucial situations. In the spin department, Mohammad Nawaz has a new partner as he will be joined by Afghan leg-spinner Qais Ahmed. Zahid Mahmood, who’s in superb form, having picked up more than 80 wickets in the recently concluded domestic season, completes the spin trio.

In Anwar Ali & Ben Cutting, Gladiators have two very solid all-rounders with similar abilities. Both of them can go berserk with the bat in the lower order and finish off the games & are more than handy with the ball.

Emerging Players

Saim Ayub

18-year-old Saim Ayub led the Sindh U19 team to glory in both the One-Day & Three-Day tournaments this season, scoring 324 runs & 454 runs respectively in these tournaments, including a hundred in each innings of the Three-Day tournament final. The highly-rated left-handed batsman has come through the system, having also captained Pakistan U16s during their tour of Australia in 2018. When set, Saim has a knack for scoring big runs and Gladiators would be hoping for the same, if they opt to play him in the top-order.

Arish Ali Khan

In 2019, Arish was the highest wicket-taker (15 wickets) in the U19 One-Day tournament and also finished second (30 wickets) on the list in the Three-Day tournament, as a result of which he was picked by Gladiators in the emerging category in last year’s PSL. Despite impressive performances at the U19 level in 2019, the left-arm spinner could only get a total of 5 games in this domestic season, all for Sindh’s 2nd XI team. However, the Gladiators have shown faith in the youngster and stuck with him despite very little game time this season.

Strengths

  • Deadly Opening Combo: Chris Gayle & Tom Banton as openers is a mouth-watering prospect; if the two get going, that could be game over for the opposition.
  • Explosive Batsmen: T20 is a game of boundaries and Gladiators have no shortage of power-hitters. Chris Gayle and Tom Banton at the top, followed by Azam Khan and Cameron Delport in the middle-order, and Anwar Ali and Ben Cutting in the lower order – it would be safe to say that PSL’s highest total is in danger.
  • The All-Round Trio: Mohammad Nawaz, Ben Cutting, and Anwar Ali have played in various leagues around the globe and have a wealth of experience in the format. They will lend great balance to the side.
  • Experience, Experience & Experience: Universe Boss Chris Gayle has 411 games worth of experience in T20s; he has scored 13,584 runs and picked up 80 wickets in these games. His potential replacement, Faf du Plessis, has also played 236 T20s. The foreign contingent of Gladiators has a total of 1155 games amongst themselves alone!

Weaknesses

  • The Anchor Role: While Gladiators have a lineup full of explosive batsmen, they lack a batsman to play the anchor role, and Sarfaraz Ahmed’s reluctance to bat up the order only intensifies the problem. Though a fine talent, trusting the inexperienced Saim Ayub to do the job could well backfire. If Gayle is unavailable, du Plessis would actually be the ideal option to anchor the innings.
  • The Spin Trouble: Mohammad Nawaz, Qais Ahmad & Zahid Mahmood are great options as spinners, and Arish Ali as a reserve could be decent. However, they all have the same stock ball, i.e., turning it away from the right-hander, which could prove to be an anomaly. Gladiators have the local guy Abdul Nasir, who bowls off-spin but has played very little professional cricket.
  • Too good but too similar: Anwar Ali & Ben Cutting (pardon me for mentioning them together for the millionth time in this article) are the exact kind of players a team needs in the lower order. However, the similarity in their style of play could mean that one of them sits out to accommodate the other.
  • The Unknowns: Usman Khan has played a total of two First-Class games for Omar Associates (owners of Quetta Gladiators) back in 2017, and he hasn’t played a single T20 game. Abdul Nasir, 22 years old, has found it difficult to make it to the 2nd XI team of Balochistan and his only T20 game was for Gladiators last season. The selection of these two players is rather strange and both are likely to spend the entire tournament on the bench.

Key Players

  • Zahid Mahmood: The leg-spinner from Dadu has been in fine form; he was amongst the top wicket-takers in all three 1st XI domestic tournaments, finishing with 83 wickets across the domestic season. This saw him earn an international debut against South Africa, where he picked up three wickets. He will be hoping to carry on his form into the PSL as well.
  • Tom Banton: Being dropped from the national team ensured that Banton would be available for the Gladiators this season. He would be hoping to fire with the bat and bring himself back into national contention, especially considering the T20 World Cup is slated to happen later this year. Playing for Zalmi, he had a poor debut season last year, so he will be desperate for a turnaround in fortunes.
  • Mohammad Hasnain: The right-arm pacer has 27 wickets in 16 PSL games & finished as the 2nd-highest wicket-taker last season. He was the most economical bowler (4.58) in the recently concluded Pakistan Cup, picking up 9 wickets from 5 games. Hasnain has become the leader of the attack for Sindh, and he would be hoping to do the same for Gladiators, bringing himself into contention for national selection.

Prediction

The kind of experience the Gladiators possess, combined with fact that they have players for every type of situation and arguably the best bowling attack in the league, means they have almost all the bases covered. The Gladiators look set to go all the way this time. They will likely end up as finalists!

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1 comment
McKenzie
24 Feb, 2021

Nice read this but I think author will be cursing himself for predicting that QG will reach the finals. QG is quite a good team but led by a guy who is letting emotions get better of him. Sad indeed..