Pakistan news October 2, 2013

PCB revises domestic calendar to meet financial viability

The Pakistan Cricket Board has announced a domestic calendar in which two first-class tournaments - the Quaid-e-Azam trophy and the President's Trophy - will run simultaneously. The two List A events, like the first-class tournaments, will also be held concurrently. The Super Eight T20 Cup has been scrapped to make way for an 11-team departmental Twenty20 cup. The calendar has been chalked out to make the season financially cost-effective, and regional and department tournaments being played at the same time will allow more young players to feature for the regional teams. In previous years, players from various departments would feature in regional teams, making it difficult for other players to break into the side.

The structure of domestic cricket in Pakistan has been inconsistent and revamps have occurred every two years over the last decade. However, this year, the tournament formats have been retained and the schedule adopted to accommodate simultaneous first-class and List A tournaments. The Quaid-e-Azam trophy, the country's premier first-class tournament will have 14 regional teams, while the President's Trophy will have 11 departmental teams playing a round-robin league phase. The first round of both tournaments begin on October 23 and the regional and department teams will play a round of one-day matches on October 28. Apart from the senior circuit, the PCB has scheduled inter-regional Under-19 three-day and one-day tournaments between October 26 to December 13. A 10-day National T20 Cup will be played between 17 teams from November 20 to 29, sandwiched between Pakistan's international series against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

One season of domestic cricket costs the PCB approximately Rs 300 million ($2.8m). With the board going through a financial crunch, it plans to reduce the cost by switching to locally made Grays cricket balls, instead of the imported Kookaburra. The department teams, who are expected to bear their own logistical costs and the costs of the ball refused to sustain the Kookaburra idea and the move is likely to help save nearly Rs 10 million. The decision to use Kookaburra balls was taken last year as the board tried to introduce international standards on the domestic cricket circuit.

"We believe the season will bring a more prosperous result to our cricket," Shakeel Sheikh, the head of PCB's cricket committee, told ESPNcricinfo. "There is a desperate need to unearth the talent from regional nurseries, but for some reason the cycle of getting the quality young cricketers is not working as it should be. We want change and want to have more young legs in the field that will eventually replace players at the department level. Having all tournaments at the same time prevents departmental players from featuring in regional teams."

ESPNcricinfo understands that there are approximately 220 players recruited by the departments. Around 28 of those players will be on national duty during the domestic season; from the main pool, about 65-70 players age between 30 to 40 years while 67 players does not qualify for national selection due to poor fitness and performance.

"This is the reason we want to induct a plan to blood youngsters in the pipeline and replace ageing players," said Sheikh. "We want to encourage the player at the regional level and want to extend the pool of quality players and give them ample opportunity at the domestic level, and create a sense of security for their place."

Former skipper Rashid Latif, the sports head of the department team, Port Qasim Authority (PQA), supported the idea of hosting tournaments simultaneously. "It will be easier for the departments to assemble their teams for these tournaments and will save time and money," Latif said. "Previously, there used to be a gap of a month or more between one-day and first-class tournaments, which made things difficult for departments. Regions have always been a nursery to produce new talent and hopefully we'll see new good players coming up this season."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here