PSL 2022 team guide: Karachi Kings

The Cricketer's deep dive into the Karachi Kings setup ahead of the new Pakistan Super League season

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Coach: Peter Moores

One of the more interesting off-season moves, with the two-time England coach replacing Herchelle Gibbs at Kings for 2022. There is no doubt Moores' standing in the English domestic game having guided Nott Outlaws to T20 Blast Finals Day in four of the last six years, claiming the title twice.

In between spells with England, he won promotion with Sussex and guided Lancashire to Finals Day and added a County Championship title. Familiar faces come in the form of Joe Clarke and Imad Wasim, an overseas player when Notts went all the way in the Blast in 2020.

Captain: Babar Azam

Already the highest-scoring batter in PSL history, surpassing Kamran Akmal last term, and winner of the green cap in each of the previous two campaigns, Babar remains one of the sport's headline names. Broke Chris Gayle's record for the most T20 runs in a single calendar year in 2021 - the only problem being international compatriot Mohammad Rizwan did it first and finished top of the tree.

As fluent and graceful a batter as there currently is in the professional game, Babar is already a bonafide superstar in Pakistan. Closing in on 20,000 senior runs, you must wonder exactly where the glass ceiling is.

Overseas stars

Joe Clarke: "I want to be one of the best three-format players in England and, in the future, in the world." Bold stuff from Joe Clarke but having transitioned seamlessly from domestic dominance to franchise favourite he is very quickly becoming a marked man at this level. For Notts Outlaws at home he's a Blast winner with more than 2,000 runs in 73 innings, with a century in three of the last five campaigns.

Spells in the T10 League, PSL and Big Bash have followed, as have the runs. He amassed 807 across the competitions last year - more than Rohit Sharma - with his average not quite touching 30 due to a lean Hundred performance. Back with Perth Scorchers he opened with aplomb and struck four fifties in a row to underline his credentials.

Chris Jordan: Back for a second campaign with Kings, after missing the 2021 campaign due to his international commitments. Jordan has a curious PSL record as twice a runner-up with Peshawar Zalmi, and then skipped the second leg of the 2020 tournament when Kings scooped their maiden title. The first half of that spell was largely unimpressive, taking nine wickets at 30.33.

But this tournament has given Jordan some of his best days on the franchise circuit. He is the iron fist of the Kings attack - a decent foil for Mohammad Amir - with searing pace and plenty of experience of bowling at the death. Though he endured a modest BBL, he was one of the few England players to emerge from the World Cup with some credit and was player of the match in the group win over eventual champions Australia.

Lewis Gregory: A third different franchise in as many seasons for Gregory, who has landed on his feet after picking up a deal for 2022 with Kings. Indeed, the PSL is the only overseas league in which the Somerset allrounder has appeared in multiple campaigns. Six wickets and 117 runs from six appearances means there are limited data points from which to draw from, but he should get a good run in the Kings side this year.

Though injury hit during in 2021, there were enough examples of what Gregory can bring to convince anyone that he is worthy of another go. In his most important PSL outing yet he cracked a 31-ball unbeaten 49 as Islamabad United beat Multan Sultans. By the summer he was back in the international fold and picked up Mohammad Rizwan, Imam-ul-Haq and Shadab Khan in the ODI series against Pakistan. That followed his best T20 figures and maiden five-for in the Blast against Gloucestershire, powering through the top order with 5 for 24.

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Mohammad Amir is back for another campaign (Asif Hassan/AFP via Getty Images)

Ian Cockbain: "I look at the guys above me and even some of the guys who haven’t scored as many runs as me. They get higher honours or in the franchises. It does feel frustrating sometimes." Ian Cockbain has spent ages waiting for the franchise bus, and in the space of a week two have come at once. After being in the right place, at the right time, to pick up a BBL deal with Adelaide Strikers, three outings later he's won a deal with Kings as a late replacement for the injured Tom Abell.

The Liverpudlian is finally being fully appreciated after years of consistently being among the highest run-scorers in the Blast. Only 14 players have more in the competition's history. Though not his most prolific, 2020 felt like a breakthrough as Gloucestershire reached Finals Day thanks to his 399 runs at a strike rate of 169.78. Early signs at this level are good, with a masterful 71 for the Strikers helping them into the playoffs.

Mohammad Nabi: The Afghanistan allrounder is fully available after choosing to skip the Netherlands ODIs. Particularly with the bat, Nabi was superb for Kings during the first half of last year's PSL, scoring 174 runs at an average of 58. He's a canny operator in the middle overs with the ball and is closing in on 300 T20 wickets - only 11 players in history have more.

Nabi is less about consistency over a long period, and more about individual match-winning displays. He claimed four player of the match awards in four different tournaments in 2021, including as he mashed an unbeaten 67 from 35 balls - as part of a 118-run stand with Babar - to beat Peshawar Zalmi. No.14 in the men's T20 Player Index, his longevity alone deserves a much higher standing.

Jordan Thompson: The Yorkshire allrounder was one of the good news stories to come out of Headingley in 2021, enjoying a fine Blast campaign to grab the attention of the wider world. His 14 wickets and 215 runs helped the Vikings reach the quarterfinals and helped earn him a BBL deal with Hobart Hurricanes.

Thompson wasn't there to make up the numbers, playing in 10 of the 14 group matches and helping them qualify for the playoffs before heading to Pakistan. Though expensive, it'll be with the ball that the 25-year-old has the greatest impact. He picked up eight in the BBL, helped by a best of 3 for 24, which included dismissing Alex Hales.

Tom Lammonby: A late replacement for Romario Shepherd, who has been ruled out due to international commitments. After a stellar start to his first-class career, Lammonby spent 2021 enhancing his white-ball credentials with run-outs in The Hundred and the BBL. He helped Somerset reach the T20 Blast final, a run that included him cracking a career-best 90 from 36 balls against Gloucestershire.

Scoring at 152.02 per 100 balls he will be an asset for Kings in the middle order and offers another left-handed option. Started the winter playing grade cricket at Manly in Australia but will now end it with outing in two of the biggest franchise competitions around.

Changes from 2021

Moores' appointment came on the eve of the player draft in early December, a relatively late move but a shrewd one, nonetheless. It followed confirmation that Babar would take over the captaincy from Imad Wasim, who had led the team since 2017. There was an English focus in their draft picks, with Jordan, Gregory, and Tom Abell (now replaced by Cockbain) - who misses out through injury - all enlisted. Romario Shepherd comes in after the exit of fellow-West Indian Chadwick Walton. Colin Ingram is absent too.

How did they do in 2021?

Kings snuck into the playoffs on net run-rate courtesy of victories in their last two group games - the key success coming against Lahore Qalandars by seven runs. Despite having the tournament's leading run-scorer in toe their progress was halted by Peshawar Zalmi in Eliminator after a blitz by Hazratullah Zazai.

Best finish: Winners (2020)

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Peter Moores takes a step into PSL coaching (Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

BATTING

Power hitters

Clarke looks like a spectacular investment for the future for Kings, given his success over the last 12 months. He finished the BBL group stage as the highest overseas run-scorer and last season's PSL saw his runs come at a fearsome strike-rate of 175.36. Sharjeel Khan offers a left-handed option in the top three and scored his runs at 148.24 last term.

Only Kamran Akmal has more PSL centuries than Sharjeel, who struck one of only two tons in 2021 against Islamabad United and still holds the record for the highest score in tournament history (117 v Peshwar Zalmi, 2016). And though he may have to wait for an opportunity, Cockbain proved once again in the BBL he is a classy ball-striker. Down the order, look no further than Mohammad Nabi who smeared his 174 runs at a strike-rate of 179.38.

Anchor

This is a well-balanced Kings line-up, with the perfect blend of powerful batters and deliberate stroke-makers. Babar can bat through from the top of the order and carried his bat three times last term. Assuming he gets an opportunity, PCB domestic cricketer of the year Sahibzada Farhan also has the capacity to be the perfect foil to the big hitters. He top-scored in the National T20 Cup with 447 runs, scoring at 132.24. His career strike-rate drops to an almost prosaic 114.36.

Finisher

Nabi is a master of closing out the innings, a role he seemed born for. From the moment he struck an unbeaten 43 as Afghanistan beat Ireland in Dubai in February 2010, he made the position his own. He cemented that status last term with that 67 against Zalmi but he was also among the runs against Gladiators, with a 14-ball 30.

Finding a place for him and Gregory in the XI is the challenge facing Moores, with the Somerset and England allrounder possessing a decent pedigree too. His 49 for Islamabad United against Multan Sultans was one of the performances of PSL 7.

Problem areas

The opening 13 matches of PSL 6 were won by the side chasing, but Kings were worse off than most having to defend. They lost five of the seven games when they were forced to bat first, including in the Eliminator against Peshawar Zalmi. The most obvious concern looking at the 2022 roster is not the first XI, but those sitting underneath. This is not a side blessed with great depth after the top six so they can ill-afford injuries or too many withdrawals.

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Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi (Asif Hassan/AFP via Getty Images)

BOWLING

Speed merchants

The ever-reliable Mohammad Amir leads the Kings attack for a seventh campaign. Instead of the World Cup or even the BBL, it has been a winter of the Lanka Premier League and the Abu Dhabi T10 League for the left-arm quick who has ample to offer at a barely believable 29.

Last term was his leanest PSL yet, however, taking five wickets at 69.80. “My focus is always to respond (to criticism) with my performance," he said ahead of the tournament. He'll be helped by the formidable presence of Jordan, who helped guide Southern Brave to victory in the men's Hundred while England reached the semi-finals in the UAE.

The 33-year-old's pace set against Amir's skill should make them the ideal pair at the death. Shepherd is somewhat of a wildcard but is a sure-fire new ball option and Mohammad Ilyas, who can go around the park, claimed eight wickets last term.

Variation

Imad Wasim's changes in flight, speed and angle makes him an incredibly testing proposition on these pitches. Whether it be the arm-ball, which hurries opponents as it skids off the pitch, the delivery which dips devilishly on the batter, or the disguised undercutter, Imad has a delivery for every eventuality. We'll see him thrown the new ball to expose batters trying to throw the hammer down in the power play.

They so often get unstuck. An economy rate of below seven makes Nabi a real asset in the middle overs, too. Youngsters Faisal Akram and Qasim Akram are both with Pakistan at the Under-19 World Cup.

Problem areas

This feels like an underpowered attack. No team had a higher economy rate in the powerplay during PSL 6 than Kings, though they did take the most wickets (21). That said, three of the top five powerplay scores came against them and the fear might be they haven't made the additions required. Though he enjoyed a brief revival in the LPL, the form of Amir is of particular concern.

FIELDING

Gun fielder

As much due to longevity as anything, Babar and Imad split Ravi Bopara for the most catches for Kings in PSL history. Kamran Khan, who tested positive for Covid-19 during the tournament last year, remains the fielding coach.

Who takes the gloves?

Clarke took on the responsibility for his five matches last term and will be the permanent gloveman in 2022 after the departure of Walton. Rohail Nazir, formerly of Islamabad United and Multan Sultans, is on standby.

Squad: Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Amir, Joe Clarke, Sharjeel Khan, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Ilyas, Chris Jordan, Lewis Gregory, Umaid Asif, Ian Cockbain, Rohail Nazir, Muhammad Imran, Faisal Akram, Qasim Akram, Talha Ahsan, Tom Lammonby

Supplementary round: Sahibzada Farhan, Jordan Thompson

Partial replacement: Mohammad Taha Khan

Fixtures: January 27 - Multan Sultans (National Stadium, Karachi – 2pm GMT), January 29 - Quetta Gladiators (National Stadium, Karachi – 2pm GMT), January 30 - Lahore Qalandars (National Stadium, Karachi – 2pm GMT), February 4 - Peshawar Zalmi (National Stadium, Karachi – 2pm GMT), February 6 - Islambad United (National Stadium, Karachi – 2pm GMT), February 13 - Peshawar Zalmi (Gaddafi Stadium Stadium, Lahore – 9am GMT), February 14 - Islamabad United (Gaddafi Stadium Stadium, Lahore – 2pm GMT), February 16 - Multan Sultans (Gaddafi Stadium Stadium, Lahore – 2pm GMT), February 18 - Lahore Qalandars (Gaddafi Stadium Stadium, Lahore – 3pm GMT), Quetta Gladiators (Gaddafi Stadium Stadium, Lahore – 9am GMT)

Possible starting XI: Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Joe Clarke, Sahibzada Farhan, Mohammad Nabi, Imad Wasim, Lewis Gregory, Mohammad Ilyas, Aamir Yamin, Chris Jordan, Mohammad Amir

OTHER PSL7 TEAM GUIDES (open in external window in app)

Islamabad United

Lahore Qalandars

Multan Sultans

Peshawar Zalmi

Quetta Gladiators

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