LAHORE: Peshawar Zalmi is one of the most loved franchises in the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL). They have been one of the four title-winners in the history of the tournament. Their journey in the HBL PSL has been a fairytale to say the least because of the style that they display on the field.
Alongside Karachi Kings, Zalmi are the only side to have qualified for the play-offs in all five editions of the tournament. They won the tournament in 2017 and are likely to make a big splash in the 2021 edition as well.
The franchise has had some of the most popular players to have featured for them in the four editions of the tournament that were played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The expat pathans would come to watch the ever-green Shahid Afridi and the two-time T20 World Cup winning West Indies captain Daren Sammy.
Even in the last edition, Zalmi were the crowd favourites because of the pull they have with the quality of players in their line-up. Afridi is now plying his trade with Multan Sultans, while Sammy is now in the role of a head coach, leaving speed merchant Wahab Riaz in charge as the leader of the franchise.
The franchise also has the two most experienced T20 specialists in Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal featuring alongside Wahab.
Kamran is the most successful run-getter in the HBL PSL history with 1,537 runs from 56 matches and has also struck three centuries – most in the tournament’s history. But, his form in the 2020 edition left a lot to be desired as he scored just 251 runs in spite of striking a hundred in the league phase.
Malik on the other hand struck three half-centuries in the 2020 event.
To complement the experienced trio in Malik, Kamran and Riaz, is the young Haider Ali who is already marked as the generation’s next star. Haider scored 239 runs in the last edition. Now having featured for Pakistan in international cricket, Haider is expected to make a big impact this season.
The 2020 disappointment for Zalmi can be pinned on the foreign recruits’ less than positive returns.
England’s Tom Banton was brought for his reputation in the T20 Blast with the county side Somerset, but he came a cropper on the slow pitches, managing just 74 in seven matches. The other English pair of Liam Livingstone and Liam Dawson were also not as successful as before in the previous editions of HBL PSL.
Top-order Yorkshire batsman Tom-Kohler Cadmore has replaced Liam Livingstone who was drafted into England T20 side for the India tour. This year, Peshawar will have the big striking South African David Miller but only for the later stages of the tournament as he has some domestic cricket commitments. Another player to watch out will be Sherfane Rutherford of West Indies who is an excellent finisher.
Fast-rising all-rounder Amad Butt, lanky Mohammad Irfan and experienced Umaid Asif will form the core of the pace attack led by Wahab, who is also the leading wicket-taker in the history of HBL PSL with 76 in 55 matches. English pacer Saqib Mahmood is the other vital cog in the fast bowling attack.
In addition, the Zalmi franchise also have some exciting fast bowlers in Pakistan U19 star Mohammad Amir Khan, who stole the show with his pace at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020. Imran Randhawa with his swinging yorkers will also be in focus this season.
However, the exit of Hasan Ali after five years will be the biggest gap that Zalmi have to somehow fill this time around.
Peshawar’s spin attack will be helmed by Afghanistan’s magical spinner Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman, who has earned the reputation in various leagues around the world. Young mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed will also be hungry to take wickets after featuring briefly for Karachi Kings in an earlier HBL PSL season.
Squad: Wahab Riaz (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Amad Butt, David Miller, Haider Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Amir Khan, Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Imran Randhawa, Mohammad Irfan Senior, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Ravi Bopara, Saqib Mahmood, Sherfane Rutherford, Shoaib Malik, Tom-Kohler Cadmore and Umaid Asif.