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Smith or de Villiers - the Qalandars dilemma

A day ahead of the draft for the fourth season of the Pakistan Super League, Lahore Qalandars have an envious conundrum to resolve: AB de Villiers or Steven Smith?

21-Nov-2018

A day ahead of the draft for the fourth season of the Pakistan Super League, Lahore Qalandars have an envious conundrum to resolve: AB de Villiers or Steven Smith?

Both Smith and de Villiers are likely to be the first two players to be snapped up, and with just two picks available in Platinum, the opening round of the draft, Qalandars could be left with just one of them. Though it emerged that Qalandars had apparently settled on de Villiers as their pick, Sameen Rana, the Qalandars chief executive officer, denied it, saying Smith was still under their consideration.

"My heart goes with ABD, but my brain is stuck with Smith, so I will take my time to decide who we should go with," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It's a first pick again, and very much important, as always. I know every team must be eyeing one of those two, and have their calculations. We have two picks in first round for Platinum, and this is very crucial for us. We are weighing up all the options, and we are also looking for a captain and having a local is the best way forward this time."

Making this dilemma worse is Qalandars' dubious past with big-name players. Qalandars have had a history of picking up big names with huge expectations only to end up last every time. Over the last three seasons, they have lost 17 out of 26 games.

In the first season, they went with Chris Gayle, but it backfired as the opener landed in Dubai injured. He went on to play five games, nevertheless, but ended up with an average of 20.60. Gayle was traded next season with Karachi Kings. During the same season, Qalandars also had to deal with Yasir Shah getting banned after testing positive for a banned substance, and Mustafizur Rahman going down with injury and not joining the team at all.

In their second season, Qalandars were hit by injuries to Shaun Tait, Dwayne Bravo and Anton Devcich, while in the third, their hottest pick, Chris Lynn, dislodged his shoulder in the Big Bash League, and Sohail Khan, whom they roped in after a trade with Karachi Kings suffered a back injury. Brendon McCullum was the only regular member of the side, but he underwhelmed, going two seasons without a half-century despite being captain.

"We are not confused, just giving a second thought because we have had enough troubles in the past three seasons," Rana said. "We went with some big names in every season, but each time our decision backfired. We couldn't resist, and when you have the first pick of the draft you just go with the temptation of big names. But after three seasons, we have realised and have had a lot of learning. That's why I am giving it a second thought, either to pick ABD, who has achieved everything in his career, or Smith, who is ambitious about his career to stay relevant."

Qalandars have also struggled with the captaincy. Azhar Ali, their first captain, was stripped from the job, and never played again though he was retained for the 2017 season, before being released. Over three seasons, other teams retaining their local captains had left Qalandars scant on options. But now, for the first time, they have a wider pool of Pakistan players to pick from - Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi.

"We were a bit unfortunate as we didn't have any options from the local circuit to have a captain and went with Brendon instead, but the ideas literally backfired because the foreigner can never have first-hand information about the local lads at the bench or in the playing XI, so this has always been a problem.

"We need someone who has full understanding about local dynamics and is very much aware about the mindset of the Pakistan culture. We are more mature than ever. I cannot pull back what happened in [the past] three seasons, but we are positive and in high spirits."

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