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Top-order batting key for Quetta Gladiators; Islamabad United's strength is in their solid core

The Quetta Gladiators are the defending PSL champions AFP via Getty Images

Quetta Gladiators

Team overview

The defending champions, and three-time finalists in the PSL, Quetta Gladiators have a value-for-money line-up, put together at US$ 1.1 million. All other teams have cost their owners significantly more. Quetta have a core of local players, led by Sarfaraz Ahmed, who runs a tight ship.

Two of the players who make Quetta tick are Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal, men who have both had their brushes with controversy. But head coach Moin Khan believes he knows how to handle them and get the best out of them, and they have played their part for Quetta. Shehzad was the second-highest scorer for the team last year with 311 runs to Shane Watson's 430, but from four fewer games, while Akmal hit 277, fourth on the list with Rilee Rossouw's 295 putting him at No. 3.

Quetta have retained Watson, and have continued with left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz as their platinum pick. Among the overseas players, they have England's Jason Roy, Australians Ben Cutting and Fawad Ahmed, and welcome back Tymal Mills after he missed out last season. Naseem Shah and Mohammad Hasnain are more established than they were last year, and Arish Ali, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner, is quite the one to watch out for. Moin's son Azam Khan, meanwhile, might have attracted a fair bit of nepotism talk, but is an exciting power-hitter.

Strengths

The firepower at the top, with Roy, Watson, Shehzad and Akmal, is formidable. The squad is a carefully designed one, with depth and no obvious weak link. There is stability and consistency too, with Sarfaraz having led the side since the start of the competition.

Weaknesses

Though Hasnain is an established T20 bowler, he is still 19, and Shah hasn't quite exploded in the shortest format yet. That might mean premier spinner Nawaz might have a lot on his plate, and his record - 44 wickets in 46 games in the UAE and 35 in 51 in Pakistan - isn't fantastic. Fawad is also coming in on the back of some up-and-down form in the BBL. In Mills and Keemo Paul, though, there is some quality in the ranks.

Squad
Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Jason Roy, Shane Watson, Ahmed Shehzad, Ben Cutting, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Hasnain, Fawad Ahmed, Ahsan Ali, Naseem Shah, Sohail Khan, Tymal Mills, Abdul Nasir Arish Ali Khan, Azam Khan, Zahid Mehmood, Khurram Manzoor

Management staff

Nadeem Omar (owner), Viv Richards (mentor), Moin Khan (head coach), Abdul Razzaq (assistant coach), Azam Khan (manager), Nabeel Hashmi (media manager), Julien Fountain (fielding coach), Shakir Khilji (analyst), Nisar Khan (physio), Rashid Qureshi (trainer), Abdur Rauf (masseur)

Islamabad United

Team overview

After they clinched the title twice in the first three seasons, their form somewhat tailed off in the last season, where they finished third. Islamabad beat Karachi Kings in the first eliminator in 2019, but they were dismantled Peshawar Zalmi in the second eliminator.

Islamabad don't have too many big names in their roster, and they have instead relied on data to pick their squad. They've retained their core of local players - Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali, Rumman Raees and Hussain Talat - who have all served them well over the years.

Islamabad have also kept faith in the 38-year old Luke Ronchi, who was among the side's top scorers in 2019, with 319 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of just a shade over 155. Ronchi will also double up as the team's assistant coach, a role he recently performed for New Zealand during the limited-overs series at home against India.

Islamabad, however, have released the likes of Alex Hales, Cameron Delport, Ian Bell, Chadwick Walton and Mohammad Sami. Dale Steyn, who was earlier in action in the BBL for the Melbourne Stars, will strengthen Islamabad's seam attack.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Islamabad have had a bit of bitter history between them, but the franchise has buried that and recalled him as head coach. Misbah had offered to play for Islamabad in 2019, but it was against the franchise's strategy of using his experience as coach. The difference of opinion eventually resulted in Islamabad releasing Misbah, who was then picked up by Peshawar as a player.

Now, Misbah and Islamabad have joined forces once again although his reappointment has led to a potential conflict of interest as he also coaches the national team in addition to being a national selector. The PCB, though, has allowed him to continue in multiple roles so that he gains more experience and exposure as a coach.

Strengths

Their template for success remains the same: have a core group of dynamic T20 batsmen at the top. Ronchi is among those batsmen, who can tee off in the Powerplays. Colin Ingram, too, has vast T20 experience, and had smashed an unbeaten 127 off 59 balls for Karachi Kings in PSL 2019.

Phil Salt, too has established himself as a T20 globetrotter and fellow Englishman Dawid Malan lends more power and class to the batting line-up.

Weaknesses

Shadab, Ashraf, Ali and Talat will be in charge of the lower-middle order, but most of these names have lost their national contracts and are searching for some form. If they don't hit form in the early half of the season, then it could be a concern for Islamabad. Raees, meanwhile, hasn't played a competitive match since PSL 2019, having been sidelined with a knee injury. Steyn was in fine form in the BBL, but the 36-year old has been prone to injuries of late.

Squad

Shadab Khan (capt.), Dale Steyn, Colin Ingram, Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Hussain Talat, Rumman Raees, Amad Butt, Musa Khan, Rizwan Hussain, Zafar Gohar, Phil Salt Aqif Javed, Ahmed Safi Abdullah. Supplementary: Saif Badar, Dawid Malan

Management staff

Ali Naqvi (owner), Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Luke Ronchi (assistant coach), Donovan Miller (bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin consultant), Corey Rutgers (fielding coach), Rehan-ul-Haq (general manager), Hasan Cheema (strategy manager), Errol Alcott (physio)