Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has formed a task force to advise the board on how to improve domestic cricket in Pakistan. The team will study and review the existing structure of domestic cricket, consider its weaknesses and strengths and will make recommendations within two months. The recommendations of the team, though, will not be binding on the PCB.
The team is made up of familiar names in Pakistan administration: former Pakistan captains Javed Miandad, Intikhab Alam, Zaheer Abbas and Moin Khan, and former players Sarfraz Nawaz, Iqbal Qasim, Imtiaz Ahmed and Zakir Khan, who is director of domestic cricket in Pakistan. Alam, who has been both a coach and manager of the national side and is now both the director of international cricket for the PCB and director of academies, will be chairman of the task team. Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, was also approached to be a part of the team but declined because of other commitments.
Some of the members of the team have questioned why it has only been given a recommendatory role.
Nawaz said the team members would use their experience to determine why Pakistan's domestic cricket was not producing more world-class cricketers. "The board want our input and we are ready to use the best of our experience to give them that. It is their responsibility to either implement it or not," Nawaz told ESPNcricinfo.
"There is definitely some problem with our existing domestic structure that is hampering the quality of our players. We have to sit down and discuss it right from the start. All the members of the team have rich experience of playing the game. Most of the members have played ample first-class cricket in different eras and understand the structure. I think the quality is missing and that is why we are not producing world-class cricketers. So we have to sit and pen down the differences in the structure of domestic cricket over the years and look for flaws that need to be fixed to get back the quality we had on our circuit."
The structure of domestic cricket in Pakistan has seen several changes over the last six decades. The period from 2001 to now has been the most inconsistent, with changes made every two years. The present structure starts with the inter-district Under-19 tournament, then has the inter-district senior championship followed by the National Under-19 event. After that there is the Patron's Trophy grade II and then the country's premier first-class event the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The format of QEA has remained intact from last season, with 22 first-class teams - both regional and departmental outfits - competing in a two-league structure. The one-day tournament is the next event, followed by the Pentangular Cup: a first-class tournament among provincial teams and sometimes featuring a combination of provincial teams and top teams from QEA - again an inconsistent format. The season ends with the Twenty20 Cup played among all the 13 regional teams.
Nawaz said the returns the board were getting from domestic cricket were not equivalent to their spendings. "The PCB has invested a huge amount in domestic cricket but the output isn't a quality one," he said. "Most of our current players aren't in the same class as Wasim [Akram], Javed [Miandad] or Waqar [Younis]; they end up playing a maximum of two years of international cricket. We want to produce players who can play international cricket for at least five to ten years on their own abilities.
"We will be studying the structures of most of the successful playing nations and will come up with feasible and the best recommendations for domestic cricket. After that it is the PCB's responsibility to take up our suggestions and implement them."
Iqbal Qasim, who is now head of sports for the National Bank of Pakistan, also said there were faults in Pakistan's domestic cricket. "It's a good sign that the board have at least realised there are flaws and the system requires evaluation," Qasim told ESPNcricinfo. "Every member in the body has huge experience of domestic cricket and I hope the team can come up with the best recommendations that are helpful for Pakistan."