UBL mulls pulling out of Pakistan's domestic circuit

Floodlights come on during the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final AFP

United Bank Limited (UBL), a prominent department with a rich history on the Pakistan domestic circuit, is considering scrapping its cricket team. UBL only returned to the fray seven years ago in 2011 after missing 15 seasons between 1997 and 2010. ESPNcricinfo understands financial considerations are the major reason, with the bank deciding to review its investment in sports.

UBL downplayed the development, but one official confirmed that several options were on the table, including the possibility of disbanding the cricket team. The players have not been informed yet but the PCB has been informed about the motion - though they denied any official confirmation. If UBL pull out, which is likely, they will also lose their representation at the PCB governing body, with the bank having been on the board for the last four-and-a-half years.

Since the team's return in 2011, Pakistan's domestic cricket has been revamped multiple times, but UBL consistently finished among the top four teams in the circuit. They played the President's Trophy final in 2014, losing to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), and lost to the same opponent in the 2016 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (QEA) final. Since being established in 1975, UBL have won the QEA four times, the Pentangular Cup three times, and the Patron's Trophy once, in addition to several limited-overs titles. UBL has invested significantly in its cricket department, contributing around PKR 50,000,000 (approx USD 432,000) each season towards the domestic franchise across all formats in the country. They were also the title sponsors of the T20I World XI series in Lahore last September.

In each era, they invested significantly in young talent, with players like Waqar Younis, Tauseef Ahmed, Mudassar Nazar, Basit Ali, Saeed Anwar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Salim Jaffer, Rashid Latif, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Azhar Mahmood playing for the franchise. The present lot, including Shan Masood, Saad Ali, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Asghar, Mir Hamza, Rumman Raees and Umar Akmal have been nurtured at UBL under the mentorship of Younis Khan.

The influx of banks into Pakistan's domestic cricket began in the early 70s, with Abdul Hafeez Kardar, the then PCB chairman, encouraging them to provide employment opportunities for players. UBL emerged after a merger with the now defunct Commerce Bank, which had been on the first-class scene since 1973.

UBL had a large sports department covering cricket, hockey, badminton and table tennis actively until 1997, when it shut following the privatisation of the bank and a change in management. It also owns a sports complex in Karachi with its own first-class cricket ground.