Top picks in franchised leagues can be game changers for obvious reasons. Use it right and you can be set for years. But go wrong and then live in a sea of regret as your rivals prosper at your expense.
The Portland Trailblazers infamously passed up on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. Their loss was Chicago Bulls’ gain. Portland went on to be known as the Jail Blazers, whereas the Bulls won six championships with Jordan.
Pakistan Super League franchises have seen four drafts so far, with the fifth one scheduled for today. So far only two teams have had the chance to make the first pick: Peshawar Zalmi in the inaugural season and Lahore Qalandars in the subsequent three, thanks to them finishing at the bottom of the points table each year.
That should change today though as reigning champions Quetta Gladiators hold the right to make the first pick this time. And unless they trade it off, they will make the number one pick.
With the draft a few hours away, let’s look back and review why the top draft pick has been misused every year and why it should have by now earned the reputation of a poisoned chalice.
PSL 2016: Zalmi pick Afridi
Islamabad United had won the right to make the first pick but they shrewdly traded it away to Peshawar Zalmi, whose team owner Javed Afridi desperately wanted to bring his cousin Shahid Afridi on board.
Shahid, though still a massive name, was in the midst of meeting Father Time. The top pick of the first-ever draft averaged a measly 14.5 runs with the bat. His highest score during the tournament was a paltry 38. He did pretty well with the ball, taking 10 wickets at an average of 24.4 but let’s not kid ourselves. If Afridi doesn’t deliver in a T20 tournament it’s a bona fide bust.
Despite the real Afridi’s batting failures, Zalmi did pretty well in the league stage. In fact, they actually topped it. However, they were eventually eliminated in the play-offs by Quetta Gladiators, who themselves were knocked out by Islamabad United — the clever chaps who traded away the top pick.
PSL 2017: Qalandars pick McCullum
It’s tough to say whether Lahore Qalandars failed because of Brendon McCullum or Brendon McCullum failed because of Lahore Qalandars. In any case, both failed in what was a second straight season at the bottom of the league. The Qalandars had high hopes from former New Zealand captain who scored just 93 runs in eight matches at an average of 13.28.
PSL 2018: Qalandars pick Lynn
If McCullum was a disaster, Chris Lynn was a catastrophe. The Qalandars wasted their top pick on the hard-hitting Australian, only to see him get injured before the tournament and miss the entire event. Needless to say, the franchise finished last for the third year running.
PSL 2019: Qalandars pick De Villiers
It would be a tad unfair to call AB de Villiers a bust, for his averaged 54.5 with the bat in seven matches. However, even the great Proteas run machine was unable to help the Qalandars escape the bottom of the table, which has become their permanent home.
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