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By Sohail Ali

LAHORE, Feb 15 (APP): Last year was a tough one for everyone not just because of the global pandemic, but also because of some personal tragedies, which affected many and Karachi Kings will enter the HBL Pakistan Super League with a lot of memories of the past edition and apart from the success in the split event, they lost their much loved head coach Dean Jones, who passed away just a couple of months before the finals.

Deano, as he was popularly known, had made an instant impact as the head coach and was liked by one and all. It was Jones’ impact that took the side to the second place on the points table, before Covid-19 forced an abrupt closure last year.

No wonder when the play-offs for the league were played in November 2020, the Kings had a simple mission: WIN IT FOR DEANO. A huge cardboard cutout photo of Jones was right next to their dugout throughout the course of the playoffs in Karachi. The entire squad was emotional as they kept remembering the lovable head coach, Jones.

The 2020 final saw Karachi Kings beat arch-rival Lahore Qalandars by five wickets, sparking a wave of celebration across the metropolis so anxiously waiting for the title.

One of South Africa’s best white-ball openers Herschelle Gibbs is now their new head coach, while legendary Pakistan paceman and ex-captain Wasim Akram remains the soul of the back room staff as Director of Cricket.

Karachi Kings have a very balanced squad for HBL PSL 2021 with a good mix of experience and youth. The top-order will once again be dominated by the likes of world’s leading Twenty20 batsman Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan.

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Ahead of the 2021 edition, Karachi Kings retained captain Imad Wasim, Babar Azam and ace pacer Mohammad Amir. England’s much sought after short form opener Alex Hales was traded to bring back South Africa’s Colin Ingram from Islamabad United, a move that will give them solidity in the middle-order. Ingram still holds the record for the highest score in a PSL match, 127 not out he scored against Quetta at Sharjah in 2019.

Then, the other player to look out for will be England’s Joe Clarke, who hit the joint most sixes (22) in Twenty20 blast in England last year.

All-rounder Dan Christian, who is one of the most decorated Twenty20 players in the world, has also been pulled in. Both Clarke and Christian have come in on the recommendation of captain Wasim who were both his teammates during Nottinghamshire’s T20 Blast title triumph. Christian was also part of Sydney Sixers’ victorious campaign in the recently concluded Big Bash in Australia.

Afghanistan’s all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who has made a name for himself with both his aggressive batting and bowling in various T20 leagues around the world, is also in the mix.

Adding the Caribbean flavour to the line-up will be Chadwick Walton, who can keep wickets and strike big. Fast-rising Karachiite Danish Aziz has proved to be an effective finisher at domestic level. All these players will bolster the power-hitting lower down the order for the defending champion.

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The player to watch out for, though, will be young 18-year-old Qasim Akram who impressed with his batting and off-spin during the domestic Pakistan T20 Cup. He is accurate as a bowler and dominating as a batsman, thereby highlighting his enormous talent.

The pace attack as always will be led by the super talented Amir, alongside another quality left-armer in Waqas Maqsood, and under19 paceman Arshad Iqbal. Incidentally, Iqbal was recently described as the most improved fast bowler in Pakistan by none other than the legendary Wasim Akram who has seen the rise under his eyes.

Wasim has also spoken highly of Abbas Afridi, another one from Pakistan’s under19 stock and Mohammad Ilyas. It is this young pace attack that has made the Pakistan’s legend excited and he is gearing to hone these talents under his wings during the 2021 edition of PSL.

Squad: Imad Wasim (captain), Aamer Yamin, Arshad Iqbal, Babar Azam, Chadwick Walton, Colin Ingram, Dan Christian, Danish Aziz, Joe Clarke, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Ilyas, Mohammad Nabi, Noor Ahmed, Sharjeel Khan, Qasim Akram, Waqas Maqsood and Zeeshan Malik.
Past finishes:

2016: Lost in first eliminator – 4th
2017: Lost in second qualifier – 3rd
2018: Lost in second eliminator – 3rd
2019: Lost in first eliminator – 4th
2020: Winners