Previews for the newly formed provincial teams for the domestic cricket season for 2019/20.
By Mansoor Khan (9th September, 2019)
It is heartening to see Balochistan get proper representation in the First Class setup. However due to decades of neglect and lack of investment in their cricketing infrastructure, there is a lack of local talent in their squad compared to other regions. Hence, the PCB have propped up their squad with many non-Balochi cricketers.
Hopefully a greater representation of Balochi cricketers will be achieved in the future.
Strengths: If Babar Azam is Pakistan’s best batsman, then Balochistan captain Haris Sohail has the strongest case as the second best batsman. An elegant left hander assured against pace and spin, Sohail will join Imam-ul-Haq and Imran Farhat, fresh from last season’s QEA Trophy success with HBL, in the top order.
Yasir Shah and Mohammed Asghar should make for a potent spin combination.
Weaknesses: It’s difficult to see Balochistan compete without the centrally contracted players.
Players to watch: Part of HBL’s winning team in last season’s QEA Trophy, Amad Butt will look to throw himself in contention for Pakistan who are searching for a quality seam bowling allrounder. Mohammed Asghar will also be eyeing a place in Pakistan’s Test team which needs competition to Yasir Shah.
First XI - Imran Farhat (vice-captain) (Lahore), Abu Bakar (Faisalabad), Ali Shafiq (Sialkot), Ammad Butt (Sialkot), Asif Zakir (Karachi), Azeem Ghumman (Hyderabad), Bismillah Khan (wicketkeeper) (Quetta), Hussain Talat (Lahore), Imran Butt (Lahore), Khurram Shehzad (Faisalabad), Mohammad Asghar (Quetta), Shahbaz Khan (Quetta), Shahzaib Ahmed Khan (Karachi), Taimur Khan (Quetta), Taj Wali (Peshawar) and Umar Gul (Abbottabad).
Second XI - Akbar-ur-Rehman (captain) (Karachi), Akhtar Shah (Quetta), Atif Jabbar (Sialkot), Awais Zia (Rawalpindi), Dawood Khan (Quetta), Fahad Iqbal (Karachi), Gohar Faiz (Quetta), Gulraiz Sadaf (wicketkeeper) (Multan), Haseeb Azam (Rawalpindi), Jalat Khan (Quetta), Mohammad Junaid (Quetta), Nazar Hussain (Quetta), Rameez Raja (Quetta), Shehzad Tareen (Quetta), Taimur Ali (Quetta) and Usama Razzaq (Quetta).
White ball specialists - Akif Javed (Kohat), Ibtisam Sheikh (Hyderabad) and Mohammad Talha (Faisalabad).
PCB central contract players – Haris Sohail (captain) (Sialkot), Imam-ul-Haq (Lahore) and Yasir Shah (Swabi).
Central Punjab must be ranked as the favourites given their strength in all departments. They have experienced batsmen who’ve been prolific at domestic level such as Babar Azam, Azhar Ali, Usman Salahuddin, Umar Akmal, Salman Butt and Ahmed Shehzad.
They possess several internationally capped fast bowlers such as Hasan Ali, Ehsan Adil and Fahim Ashraf as well as capable spinners such as Zafar Gohar and Bilal Asif.
Their strength in depth ensures they’ll be competitive even without the centrally contracted players.
Strengths: Presence of nearly a dozen internationally capped players providing an experienced core of batsmen and bowlers.
Weaknesses: Combustible personalities like Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Salman Butt have had disciplinary infractions in the past. It’s vital these senior players set the right example to the youngsters.
Players to watch: Nasim Shah has impressed many with his raw pace and ability to extract bounce. Ahmed Bashir is a promising and intelligent young seamer.
First XI - Ahmed Shehzad (vice-captain) (Lahore), Ahmed Bashir (Lahore), Ali Shan (Faisalabad), Bilal Asif (Sialkot), Ehsan Adil (Faisalabad), Fahim Ashraf (Faisalabad), Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper) (Lahore), Mohammad Saad (Lahore), Nasim Shah (Lahore), Rizwan Hussain (Lahore), Saad Naseem (Lahore), Salman Butt (Lahore), Umar Akmal (Lahore), Usman Salahuddin (Lahore), Waqas Maqsood (Faisalabad) and Zafar Gohar (Lahore).
Second XI - Ali Waqas (captain) (Faisalabad), Abdullah Shafiq (Sialkot), Ahmed Safi Abdullah (Faisalabad), Aizaz Cheema (mentor) (Lahore), Ali Zaryab (Lahore), Asad Raza (Faisalabad), Atiq-ur-Rehman (Faisalabad), Ayaz Tasawar (Sialkot), Bilawal Iqbal (Lahore), Farhan Khan (wicketkeeper) (Lahore), Irfan Niazi (Faisalabad), Mohammad Akhlaq (Lahore), Mohammad Ali (Sialkot), Raza Ali Dar (Lahore), Suleman Shafqat (Faisalabad) and Zahid Mansoor (Rawalpindi).
White ball specialists - Nasir Nawaz (Rawalpindi), Nauman Anwar (Sialkot) and Usman Qadir (subject to availability) (Lahore).
PCB central contract players - Babar Azam (captain) (Lahore), Azhar Ali (Lahore) and Hassan Ali (Lahore).
KPK has unearthed many Pakistani international cricketers in recent years. They may not possess the big names of other provinces but have often upset the odds in domestic competitions.
Captain Mohammed Rizwan has been a prolific runmaker in domestic cricket and for Pakistan A. He's arguably one of the fittest cricketers in the country and an athletic gloveman. They have internationally capped seamers in Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, and Imran Khan Sr in addition to promising youngsters such as the tall Sameen Gul and spinner Umer Khan.
However without centrally contracted players Fakhar Zaman, Mohammed Rizwan and Usman Shinwari, one can see KPK struggling to compete with the other sides.
Strengths: With the centrally contracted players, KPK can beat any team on their day.
Weaknesses: KPK lack the batting strength and will be heavily reliant on Mohammed Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman and Iftikhar Ahmed, if even available, to provide competitive totals for their bowlers.
Players to watch: Young batsman Nabi Gul has made a strong start to his First Class career. Kamran Ghulam is a hard hitting spin-bowling all-rounder with excellent fitness levels who has the ability to catch the eye of the national selectors. Also watch out for pacer Arshad Iqbal in the Second XI.
First XI - Sahibzada Farhan (vice-captain) (Peshawar), Adil Amin (Peshawar), Ashfaq Ahmed (Peshawar), Iftikhar Ahmed (Peshawar), Imran Khan Sr (Peshawar), Irfan Khan (FATA), Israrullah (Peshawar), Junaid Khan (Abbottabad), Kamran Ghulam (Abbottabad), Mohammad Ilyas (Peshawar), Musaddiq Ahmed (Peshawar), Nabi Gul (Peshawar), Rehan Afridi (wicketkeeper) (FATA), Sameen Gul (FATA), Umar Khan (FATA) and Zohaib Khan (Peshawar).
Second XI - Khushdil Shah (captain) (FATA), Ahmed Jamal (Abbottabad), Akbar Badshah (Peshawar), Arshad Iqbal (Abbottabad), Asad Afridi (FATA), Asif Afridi (FATA), Atizaz Habib Khan (Abbottabad), Azizullah (Peshawar), Gohar Ali (wicketkeeper) (Peshawar), Irfanullah Shah (FATA), Khalid Usman (Abbottabad), Mehran Ibrahim (Peshawar), Mohammad Mohsin Khan (Charsadda), Mohammad Naeem (FATA), Sajid Khan (Peshawar) and Samiullah Jr (FATA).
White ball specialists – Imran Khan Jr (Peshawar), Mohammad Arif (Abbottabad) and Mohammad Mohsin (Swat).
PCB central contract players – Mohammad Rizwan (captain) (Peshawar), Fakhar Zaman (Mardan) and Usman Khan Shinwari (Peshawar).
Northern are blessed with a variety of young pace options such as Shaheen Afridi, Musa Khan and Haris Rauf. They are supplemented by experienced campaigners such as Sadaf Hussain, Sohail Tanvir and Waqas Ahmed.
Northern also perhaps have the most spin bowling depth. In captain Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan they possess two of Pakistan’s leading allrounders. In addition, two of Pakistan’s best young spinners in Raza Hasan and Usama Mir can be called upon from the Second XI.
The batting however looks weak with much depending on vice-captain Umar Amin and senior batsman Afaq Raheem.
Strengths: Have the ability to take 20 wickets in all conditions. Their Second XI is also one to watch with youngsters such as Raza Hasan, Usama Mir, Zeeshan Malik, Tauseeq Shah and Umair Masood gunning for First XI places.
Weaknesses: A weak batting lineup.
Players to watch: Wicketkeeper Rohail Nazir struck an assured hundred vs India in the Under 19 Asia Cup and his development will be interesting to watch. Haris Rauf and Musa Khan are two quicks that caught the eye during the recent Pakistan Super League. Their stamina for the red ball game however will be tested.
First XI - Umar Amin (vice-captain) (Rawalpindi), Afaq Raheem (AJK), Ali Asad (Karachi), Ali Sarfraz (Islamabad), Asif Ali (Faisalabad), Haider Ali (Rawalpindi), Hammad Azam (Rawalpindi), Haris Rauf (Islamabad), Mohammad Nawaz (Rawalpindi), Musa Khan (Islamabad), Nauman Ali (Hyderabad), Rohail Nazir (wicketkeeper) (Islamabad), Sadaf Hussain (Rawalpindi), Sohail Tanvir (Rawalpindi), Umar Waheed (Rawalpindi) and Waqas Ahmed (Sialkot).
Second XI – Faizan Riaz (captain) (Islamabad), Ali Imran (Islamabad), Hasan Raza (AJK), Jamal Anwar (wicketkeeper) (Rawalpindi), Naved Malik (Rawalpindi), Raza Hasan (Sialkot), Salman Irshad (AJK), Sarmad Bhatti (Islamabad), Shadab Majeed (AJK), Shehzad Azam (Islamabad), Shoaib Ahmed Minhas (Rawalpindi), Syed Tauseeq Shah (Rawalpindi), Umair Khan (Islamabad), Umair Masood (wicketkeeper) (Rawalpindi), Usama Mir (Sialkot) and Zeeshan Malik (Rawalpindi).
White ball specialists – Mohammad Amir (Rawalpindi), Sohail Akhtar (Abbottabad) and Zaid Alam (Lahore).
PCB central contract players – Imad Wasim (captain) (Islamabad), Shadab Khan (Rawalpindi) and Shaheen Shah (FATA).
Possessing arguably the best batting lineup of the tournament, Sindh’s batsmen will not be easy to dislodge. They boast two prolific domestic openers in Khurram Manzoor and Abid Ali, and a powerful middle-order of Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Saad Ali and Saud Shakeel.
Their bowlers are no mugs either. Sindh can call upon seasoned domestic performers such as Sohail Khan, Mir Hamza, Tabish Khan and Kashif Bhatti, as well as a promising young spinner Waleed Ahmed, son of Pakistani offspinner Tauseef Ahmed, and the raw quick Mohammed Hasnain who lit up the Pakistan Super League.
Strengths: Their batting lineup is arguably the strongest in the competition so runs on the board should not be a problem.
Weaknesses: Bowling attack perhaps lacking the depth of the two Punjab teams and Northern.
Players to watch: Mohammed Hasnain’s PSL displays earned him a World Cup place. Whether he can transition into an effective red ball bowler is to be seen. Omair Bin Yousuf meanwhile has made a strong start to his First Class career but may find it hard to break into this Sindh First XI batting lineup.
First XI - Anwar Ali (Karachi), Fawad Alam (Karachi), Hasan Mohsin (Karachi), Kashif Bhatti (Hyderabad), Khurram Manzoor (Karachi), Mir Hamza (Karachi), Mohammad Hasan (wicketkeeper) (Karachi), Mohammad Hasnain (Hyderabad), Omair Bin Yousuf (Karachi), Rameez Aziz (Karachi), Saad Ali (Karachi), Saud Shakeel (Karachi), Shehzar Mohammad (Karachi), Sohail Khan (Karachi) Tabish Khan (Karachi) and Waleed Ahmed (Karachi).
Second XI – Mohammad Sami (captain and mentor) (Karachi), Rameez Raja Jr (vice-captain) (Karachi), Adeel Malik (Karachi), Ahsan Ali (Karachi), Ammad Alam (Karachi), Ashiq Ali (Karachi), Ashir Qureshi (Karachi), Danish Aziz (Karachi), Ghulam Muddasar (Karachi), Hassan Khan (Karachi), Jahid Ali (Karachi), Mohammad Suleman (Hyderabad), Mohammad Waqas (Hyderabad), Rumman Raees (Karachi), Saad Khan (Hyderabad) and Saifullah Bangash (wicketkeeper) (Karachi).
White ball specialists - Abrar Ahmed (Karachi), Ahsan Jamil Mirza (Karachi), Shahnawaz Dahani (Larkana).
PCB central contract players – Sarfaraz Ahmad (captain) (Karachi), Asad Shafiq (vice-captain) (Karachi) and Abid Ali (Lahore).
With the centrally contracted players available, South Punjab have one of the most potent bowling units in the competition. Mohammed Abbas and Wahab Riaz are vastly different bowlers, but Abbas with his nagging accuracy and Wahab with his raw pace and reverse swing will be a handful for any batting lineup.
Add them to Rahat Ali, the 7ft 1 Mohammad Irfan, the slow left arm spin of another Mohammad Irfan, the right arm Mohammed Irfan (Second XI) and Umaid Asif, along with two handy all-rounders in Aamer Yamin and Bilawal Bhatti – taking 20 wickets ought not be an issue.
They have in Shan Masood a hardworking and intelligent individual with a good temperament as captain.
Strengths: An abundance of bowling options and two solid openers in Shan Masood and Sami Aslam.
Weaknesses: The batting is relatively weak compared to Central Punjab and Sindh.
Players to watch: Young batsman Imran Rafiq has impressed in his brief career with an average of 42 from 9 FC matches.
First XI – Sami Aslam (vice-captain) (Karachi), Abdul Rehman Muzammil (Multan), Adnan Akmal (wicketkeeper) (Lahore), Amir Yamin (Multan), Bilawal Bhatti (Sialkot), Imran Rafiq (Multan), M. Irfan (SLA) (Lahore), M. Irfan Sr (LFM) (Multan), Mohammad Hafeez (Lahore), Rahat Ali (Multan), Saif Badar (Sialkot), Sohaib Maqsood (Multan), Umaid Asif (Sialkot), Umar Siddiq (Lahore), Zahid Mehmood (Hyderabad) and Zain Abbas (Multan).
Second XI – Naved Yasin (captain) (Multan), Salman Ali Agha (vice-captain) (Lahore), Ali Usman (Bahawalpur), Anas Mustafa (Lahore), Ataullah (Bahawalpur), Maqbool Ahmed (wicketkeeper), (Multan) Mohammad Ali Khan (Multan), Mohammad Basit (Multan), Mohammad Imran (Bahawalpur), Mohammad Irfan Jr (Nankana Sahib), Mohammad Mohsin (Lahore), Mohammad Umair (Bahawalpur), Mukhtar Ahmed (Sialkot), Zeeshan Ashraf (Okara), Zia-ul-Haq (Vehari) and Zulfiqar Babar (mentor) (Multan).
White ball specialists - Ali Khan (Sialkot), Shoaib Malik (Sialkot) and Sadaif Mehdi (Multan).
PCB central contract players – Shan Masood (captain) (Karachi), Mohammad Abbas (Sialkot) and Wahab Riaz (Lahore)