PSL 2017: Box office Brendon McCullum, KP, Babar Azam and the other players to watch

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The Pakistan Super League begins at Dubai International Stadium on Thursday evening, when Islamabad United start their title defence against Peshawar Zalmi. Here are 10 players Paul Radley expects to star over the next month in the UAE.

1. Tymal Mills (Quetta Gladiators)

Last season’s debut PSL campaign was not short of searing pace bowling, with the likes of Shaun Tait and Wahab Riaz around. Mills has the potential to go even faster than either of them. The tearaway left-arm quick bowler from England has been recruited by Quetta Gladiators.

2. Babar Azam (Karachi Kings)

The new prince of Pakistan batting will return to grounds which bear so many happy recent memories for him. In white-ball cricket, he scored three successive centuries in the UAE against West Indies earlier this winter, then he made his Test debut, too. A class act.

3. Brendon McCullum (Lahore Qalandars)

The PSL top brass will have to work out a plan to ensure McCullum stays on the field as often as possible, as he is completely box office. He missed one match in the recently concluded Australian Big Bash League, after carrying the can for his Brisbane Heat side’s slow over-rate. Having him here this season is perhaps the most obvious upgrade the PSL has made since Season 1.

4. Shahid Afridi (Peshawar Zalmi)

An old favourite. Or, more accurately, the No 1 old favourite. Few players ever have been able to match the noise that Afridi’s arrival generates at the grounds of the UAE. He is in his cricket dotage now, but he is still going to be a major draw during the PSL.

5. Sharjeel Khan (Islamabad United)

One of the great revelations of the first PSL, which went a long way to relaunching his international career, too. Riding the form he showed in helping Islamabad to an unlikely first title win, the left-handed opener was one of the few Pakistan players to excel in the Asia Cup T20 and World T20 that followed.

6. Chris Gayle (Karachi Kings)

The big off-season trade. Gayle was let go from Lahore Qalandars in favour of a switch to Karachi Kings. Both sides, representing major metropolises, fared poorly in the first year, and Gayle fell short of his usual high standards, too. He will want to correct that aberration.

7. Kevin Pietersen (Quetta Gladiators)

Pietersen’s presence in the UAE over the next months represents quite the coup for the PSL. The former England batsman has already opted to skip the Indian Premier League this season, citing a desire to spend some time at home after a busy winter of travel. He remains committed to PSL, though.

8. Ben Duckett (Islamabad United)

The left-handed batsman had a mixed start to life in England senior colours earlier this winter. He made three half-centuries in his debut series in Bangladesh, before struggling in India. The new Islamabad recruit is only 22, but already has fond UAE memories, having starred for England here in the Under 19 World Cup in 2014.

9. Jason Roy (Lahore Qalandars)

Alex Hales may have had to skip the PSL due to injury, but the other half of England’s dynamic opening partnership has made it here. Chris Gayle did not work out at the top of the order for the Qalandars last year. They have brought in some hefty firepower to replace the big West Indian, in the form of Roy and Brendon McCullum.

10. Imad Wasim (Karachi Kings)

The left-arm spinner did emerge from Pakistan’s tour of Australia just about in credit, but he will certainly be glad to be back in Dubai. The last time he was here for T20 cricket, he was just about unplayable, taking nine wickets in three matches against West Indies, including his career best five for 14 at Dubai International Stadium in September.​

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