The fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League is about to kick off and the buzz surrounding the T20 is building by the day.
Apart from talented youngsters drawn from far-flung areas of Pakistan, some of the biggest stars of both the country’s national team and international cricket will be in action during PSL 2019 which begins in the UAE this week.
So who are the biggest names the six franchises will be banking on? Here we take a look at them.
AB de Villiers (Lahore Qalandars)
The South African superstar is the biggest overseas name in this edition of the PSL following the injury withdrawal of Australia’s Steve Smith. De Villiers took a shock retirement from international cricket last year to ease his burden and has shifted his focus to franchise cricket across the globe.
His maiden appearance in the PSL should help Lahore put the disappointments of previous seasons behind them; they have finished dead last in all of them. What’s more, De Villiers will travel to Pakistan for the second leg of the league.
Shadab Khan (Islamabad United)
The defending champions are being led by veteran pacer Mohammad Sami this season with star leg-spinner Shadab named his deputy. The leggie has grown leaps and bounds across formats at the international stage. That, along with his superb returns for Islamabad in two editions – 18 wickets in 20 matches at an economy of 6.57 – make him a valuable asset.
The spirited spinner is currently ranked third in the ICC T20 table for bowlers and should grow as both a bowler and leader in the fourth edition.
Andre Russell (Multan Sultans)
The West Indian all-rounder is replacement for injured Australian star batsman Smith. Russell played for Islamabad in 2016 and picked up 16 wickets in 10 matches for them. The Caribbean all-rounder is reported to be available for the first seven matches in the UAE.
Russell’s presence should give Multan – who have seen a change of ownership but are going ahead with the same franchise name – some much-needed firepower as they aim to improve on their previous season’s second last finish.
Darren Sammy (Peshawar Zalmi)
Sammy and the PSL are pretty much synonymous. The unofficial ambassador of PSL across the globe, Sammy has been greatly responsible in bringing in more international names to play the league in Pakistan. He led the way in Peshawar’s title win in 2017 and also took them to the title clash last season.
Sammy’s lower-order hitting still retains its potency and his seamers on the sticky surfaces in the UAE can be extremely effective. At 35, he will be keen to show there is still enough T20 cricket left in him.
Babar Azam (Karachi Kings)
The next big superstar of Pakistan cricket. The talented batsman is already drawing comparisons with India batting ace Virat Kohli and his run scoring in all three formats of the game do justify them.
However, it is his record in T20 cricket that sets him apart. Babar is the fastest to 1,000 runs in international T20s and Karachi will be banking on his young shoulders to mount a title challenge. He is the top run-getter for Karachi with a shade under 700 runs.