Working in accordance with the government's devolution plan (and perhaps under the directive of President Musharraf who is the patron of PCB), Pakistan Cricket Board has expanded its boundaries to 98 of a total of 108 districts of the country and has laid the foundation of a true concept of what can be called as domestic cricket on regional basis.
The brainchild of the newly formed PCB Management Committee, headed by former captain and coach Javed Miandad, the new domestic structure kicks off with the PCB Under-19 tournament from Sept 1, 2001 and ends on March 31, 2002 and includes 456 matches as against last season's 404.
With the addition of 20 new districts having cricket infrastructure and 44 others having no such facility, the number of matches could have been even more. But by keeping the additional number of matches to only 52, the Management Committee has certainly done a great credit to itself.
Notwithstanding the obvious intricacies, which are bound to arise when such a vast number of teams or districts are taking part, the new system has one very important feature, which was altogether non-existent in previous systems.
Previously, it so happened that talented players of Grade-II teams failing to qualify for say Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade-I, from which a bulk of players are picked and inducted into the national side, were pushed into oblivion without given a second chance to unveil their talents. This is to say, individual players had to bear the brunt of their teams' inefficiency or deficiency in players' collective efforts.
The new system has sufficiently planned to do away with this trend by introducing the concept of Provincial 'Rest XI' sides. These would comprise players from Grade-II teams, which do not qualify for Grade-I, and will take part in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade-I, the premier tournament of the country. Players for these Rest XIs would be picked by domestic selection committees for each province.
Quite understandably, this method would keep domestic as well as national selectors continuously on their toes, being confronted with the task of picking players from a wider pool.
There would be only one limited-overs tournament, called National One-day Tournament, under the new system and these 'Rest XIs' would also appear in it. Apart from these four teams, 18 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and 10 departmental team of Patron's Trophy would also compete for the highest honour.
Another important and highly commendable feature of the new domestic structure is the introduction of cash prizes for teams as well as individuals, apart from trophies. Roughly, one million rupees (around US $15000), in toto, have been allocated in this regard, ranging from a minimum of Rs. 20,000 (around US $300) for the winner of an Under 19 tournament to a maximum of Rs. 100,000 (around US $1500) for the winner of a Grade I tournament.
Considering the financial soundness of the Board, this appears to be a very meagre amount, but the fact remains that the winners of last year's tournaments didn't get any thing worthy of mention.
Another fact worth mentioning about the plan is that Javed Miandad has had no role to play in its formulation as he is on a personal visit to England, and it is expected that he won't be able to do anything more in the future, having being hired by the Bangladesh Cricket Board for the coaching of their national team.
In the chairman's absence, his deputy Iqbal Qasim took up the task and brought out what looks to be a commendable plan. However, the decision about its worth can only be taken after the completion of at least the first season.
In Iqbal Qasim's own words, as he laid the plan before journalists during a press conference the other day: "The plan is far from being perfect, and we would be looking forward to your (pressmen) suggestions to remove any chinks in it."