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The Pakistan Super League (PSL), as its name gives away, is a franchise-based T20 league from Pakistan. It is not the biggest or the most lucrative or the fanciest T20 tournament by any means but it does have its USPs, which warrants second or even third looks from a betting point of view.
The PSL had long been planned but came into being in 2016, which makes it pretty young and naïve as compared to the Big 2 giants such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Big Bash League (BBL) – both of whom have been around for at least a decade now and are THE T20 brands in the game.
Before its launch, the PSL, or a league like PSL, was in the making for a good five years. But as most things Pakistan, it took an extraordinary amount of time before the idea could come to fruition.
Even then it may never have happened, had it not been for a man named Najam Sethi – a journalist and a non-cricketing personality. He was a political appointment and paratrooper into the Pakistan Cricket Board setup but his unorthodox approach got the ball rolling.
While launching and running an annual T20 tournament in any other cricket-crazed country would have been no big deal, in Pakistan it was due to one very specific reason.
A country plagued by terrorism and crippling economy, Pakistan’s sports scene was dealt a massive setback when the visiting Sri Lankan team came under a terrorist attack in 2009. With foreign players not willing to visit Pakistan, the country’s cricket board had to stage the first few editions of the tournament in the UAE.
Over the years, with the security situation improving, the PCB has managed to bring the tournament to Pakistan but it still quite isn’t smooth sailing yet.
Most T20 leagues around the world are known to be skewed towards batsmen. PSL is different in this way. It is one of those leagues where there is still some sort of balance left when it comes to bat and ball. The quality of bowling, especially fast bowling, is better in PSL than its peers, which translates into comparatively lower scores and aggregate totals.
This is not exactly surprising as Pakistan have a long history of producing quality fast bowlers, whereas their batsmen are not known to be as talented. So, for fans of fiery fast bowling, PSL holds value.
Unlike IPL and Big Bash, PSL does not have eight teams. It started with the original set of five and added a sixth later as an expansion franchise.
All four Pakistani provinces as well as the federal capital have a representative each in the PSL, except for Punjab, which has two teams.
The inaugural edition of the tournament in 2016 was won by Islamabad United, followed by Peshawar Zalmi in 2017, Islamabad again in 2018, Quetta Gladiators in 2019 and Karachi Kings last year.
The sixth edition of the tournament is currently taking place. The tournament is still only in its round robin stage, which means there is plenty of action left and plenty of bets to make.
Apart from the fast bowling talent, another hallmark of Pakistan cricket is their unpredictability – something that is evident in PSL as well.
Over the first few seasons, three sides –Islamabad, Quetta and Peshawar – made their names as the most consistent, which the three combining to make the first four finals and completely shutting out bigger city franchises and arch-rivals Karachi and Lahore.
Just when reputations were set and precedents made, the trademark unpredictability factor reared its head and the sleeping giants Karachi and Lahore finally woke up last season.
Lahore, in particular, which had finished dead last in the first four editions of the tournament, were languishing at the bottom again when they suddenly caught fire, going all the way to the final, where they were defeated by Karachi.
Meanwhile, perennial contenders Quetta and Islamabad finished fifth and sixth respectively – something few had anticipated considering their stellar track record.
It’s this topsy-turvy nature of the PSL that necessitates caution on part of gambling folks.
That said, smart gamblers can still find value and make money.
Currently, the favorites to win the tournament are Lahore Qalandars, who finished dead last in all four editions of the competition from 2015 to 2019. They finally came alive last season and made the finals, and this year, they have emerged a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the late career transformation of their veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez as well as their stacked bowling unit.
The Qalandars can be backed at odds of 3.60.
After Lahore come the defending champions Karachi Kings (4.0), who also have no real weaknesses in their side. Their main strength though is their opening pairing of Pakistan captain Babar Azam and tainted but hard-hitting Sharjeel Khan.
For value bet, Islamabad United at odds of 5.0 also deserve another look. The two-time champs have one of the deepest batting line-ups, with Hasan Ali coming to bat at number 10. Their camp has been hit by Covid-19 that has sent two of their players into isolation but, nonetheless, they should still be feared.
Peshawar Zalmi, at 5.63, are also nothing to sleep on but the other two teams – Multan Sultans and Quetta Gladiators – look flawed and even though they have the most lucrative odds (7.38 and 10.5 respectively), they should be overlooked.
For individual match-ups, you can keep an eye on the March 4 matchup between Lahore and Islamabad. The capital city side is finding their rhythm and at decent odds of 1.97, they are an interesting play.