Cricket remains alive in Pakistan the whole year except for a couple of months of excessive heat in the summer. While the international matches are usually played in the first and last quarters of the year, the domestic cricket has no such limitations.

The prime object being the development of cricket in the country and the harnessing of young and upcoming talent, a number of tournaments are held to promote different versions of the game. The competitions generally comprise of one-day, three-day and four-day matches. With constant practice in these matches, the boys are groomed for One-day Internationals, side matches and Tests.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has two types of affiliated members - (1) The regional associations which comprise of city, district and divisional cricket bodies. (2) The organizations and institutions like banks, railways, airlines, armed forces and other government departments. They promote the game at their own levels and hold regular tournaments for their clubs and other affiliated units. On occasions they also stage or sponsor tournaments at national level.

A major tournament that commenced this morning (22 March 2000) is the NBP One-day Tournament organized by the National Bank of Pakistan. The tournament is being held at the fag end of the current domestic season so as to ensure maximum participation. The 22 participating teams have been divided into four groups and the matches are supposed to be staged at seven major cricket centres of Pakistan namely Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Sheikhupura and Sialkot. The semi-finals and final will be played at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore under flood lights.

The bank has allocated Rs 3 million for the tournament out of which Rs 550,000 will be dished out in the form of prizes. The winners will get Rs 100,000, runners-up 50,000 and semi-final losers Rs 25,000 each, while winners of each pool will receive Rs 35000. Man of the Match awards range between Rs 1500 and 5000 while Man of the Tournament will be awarded Rs 10,000. The best in each category of bowlers, batsmen and wicketkeepers will also earn Rs 5000 each. The awards appear to be attractive enough for the players and teams to put in their best show.

With the Pakistan team playing in the Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah followed by the tour of the West Indies, the tournament may lack the star attraction. However, in the absence of 15 top players there would still be many prominent cricketers who will draw the attention of lovers of the game.

Since the search for fresh talent and the selection of new players is a constant process, the players taking part in the tournament cannot take the event lightly. They would be under close scrutiny of the national selection committee, recording their performance in every match.

The tournament was inaugurated this morning by Elahi Baksh Soomro with a match between Karachi and Hyderabad at the NBP Cricket Ground, Karachi.