Astutely led by Sarfraz Ahmed, the Gladiators made a stunning impression in the opening edition of the PSL by marching to the tournament final. Many pundits considered Gladiators unfancied and rank outsiders before the commencement of the event yet their fighting spirit and commitment turned them into a formidable outfit that came within a game of lifting the trophy.
Gladiators were well served by their icon player Kevin Pietersen who along with team mentor Viv Richards combined brilliantly with Sarfraz and the team management led by former Pakistan captain Moin Khan, the Gladiators fan base increased with every passing game turning them into one of the most popular teams in the competition.
Gladiators ended the round robin stage at the number two spot behind Zalmi, the top two teams played a nail-biting first qualifier which was decided on the last ball of the match as Sarfraz’s eleven held their nerve in front of a roaring Dubai International Stadium. Their title bid was thwarted by United in a high scoring final as the Islamabad outfit outwitted Gladiators.
For the second season, Gladiators once again look a formidable lot with the core of the team that played in the first season retained. The squad is further bolstered by the signing of English fast bowler Tymal Mills who has acquired a reputation of bowling some sharp and incisive spells especially in the instant format of the game.
Umar Gul is likely to spearhead the bowling attack, the right-armer is one of the most experienced T20 bowlers in the game and despite his lack of success at the international level in recent years his vast experience, control and penetrative bowling combine to make him a potent force in the format.
Spinners Mohammad Nawaz and Zulfiqar Babar will have a big role to play on the spinning tracks of Sharjah and Dubai, Nawaz was one of the finds of the inaugural season and impressed all with his impeccable control and more than useful middle-order batting, attributes that booked him a place in Pakistan’s WorldT20 squad on the heels of the PSL.
Gladiators have also imported United batting all-rounder Umar Amin, the left-hander is a capable T20 resource and would be aiming to make a big impression in the league as he endeavours to win back his place in the national limited overs’ squad.
The batting department is full of talent and potential match winners, Pietersen will be the linchpin in the line-up while Sarfraz, Luke Wright, Asad Shafiq, Saad Nasim and opener Ahmed Shehzad are all capable performers, Shehzad has played some sterling knocks in Pakistan’s domestic competitions in the days leading up to the PSL and the Lahore born would surely be aiming to make most of his dazzling batting form.
On paper Gladiators’ have a balanced squad that can once again challenge the rest of the franchises, Sarfraz and his players have the trophy in their sights and based on their spirited run in last season, Gladiators can’t be taken lightly by any of their four rivals.