Making money in the absence of international home series and tackling a dearth of young talent were the two main problems that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was meant to solve — and it has done that to a large extent.
But there is a third motivating factor, too, which often gets overlooked; PSL tournaments also offer lifelines to former stars whose stocks have fallen and been replaced by younger, more exciting options.
Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal were two such beneficiaries last year, although they failed to capitalise and turn that into a prolonged run in the national fold.
The quintet of out-of-favour stars who have the best shot at resurrecting their national careers through PSL 2020 are listed below:
If there is one man that has lost more than anyone in Pakistan’s cricketing arena in the past 12 months it’s Sarfaraz Ahmed. The former undisputed captain of all formats now only leads Quetta Gladiators and Sindh. It’s the first PSL after the inaugural edition that he’s not the national team’s captain in at least one format.
It means that he’s gone from looking for PSL talent to hoping that someone looks at him this PSL. And by someone, we mean Misbah.
Since being demoted to domestic cricket, he’s done reasonably well with the bat but reasonably well won’t cut it anymore. Saifi, as his final roll of the dice, needs to promote himself up the order in the wild hope that he scores enough and grabs the dual title-holder’s attention.
His game isn’t custom built to score big runs, especially in T20 format, but it is his best and only shot. Fail here and a deep nail will be hammered in the coffin of his international career. Shine though and fan pressure would force the powers that be to rethink things.
There’s a certain type of cricketer that always remains in fashion and demand in Pakistan cricket no matter what he’s done.
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis played plenty of ‘games’ in the 90s, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi carried the torch in the 90s, and Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad took over the reins from them. There was also a Mohammad Amir somewhere in the middle.
As long as you have one or more of style, looks, speed, promise of fireworks or the X factor, you’ll always have a chance of making the Pakistan team.
Sharjeel Khan is the latest in this breed.
With Fakhar Zaman — also of the same breed — out, the system is putting in the work to lift Sharjeel up. Even a slight bit of spark and all will be forgotten, and before long he will be padding up for national duty.
The second biggest loser of 2019, behind Sarfaraz, was Asif Ali. His ability to hit big, or at least the promise of hitting big, means he, too, will be in contention every PSL. But this tournament comes once a year which means that if he doesn’t deliver here, he will have to live in the domestic doldrums for the next 12 months.
With batting a bit on the lighter side for Islamabad, Asif should get plenty of opportunities to swing that heavy willow of his. Connect a few times at the right moment and it should be enough to give him some more chances (to fail) at the highest level.
It can be argued that Fakhar Zaman was overwhelmed by the demands of top-level cricket. In just two years, he was exposed to so much cricket that he lost his mojo.
Another, more believable, theory is that he and his technique were finally found out at the highest level. Fortunately for him, technique is the last thing that matters in T20 cricket.
If he gets some runs in PSL 2020, it’s completely possible that him and Sharjeel would be vying for the other opening spot alongside Babar Azam in T20Is for Pakistan.
Hasan Ali is fully mended and raring to go — that’s what we hear days before the start of PSL 2020, but we’ve heard this before multiple times over the past six months.
During this time, Hasan has had multiple setbacks in his battles with back injuries and fractured ribs. And in the emergence of younger, more exciting options, Hasan has been forgotten.
So when this time last year it would have been impossible to construct a Pakistan team without Hasan, this time this year it is impossible to construct with him in it.
Luckily, PSL 2020 is here for Hasan to get his name out there again and remind people that while all the teenage pacers are fine, he also brings something to the table which others can’t.