Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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The Pakistan women's T20 league, meant to run alongside the PSL next month, will not go ahead as planned. The new PCB management committee, headed by Najam Sethi, decided to shelve the league, with the aim of holding it in September. The new league - which will bear a different name - will be a standalone tournament with four teams.
The idea to launch the women's T20 league was initiated by previous chairman Ramiz Raja and the league was meant to run side by side with PSL games in Rawalpindi. Ramiz was also a big proponent of launching the leagues at the youth level and intended to commercialise women's cricket by having a franchise-based league. The dates of the women's PSL directly clashing with the inaugural edition of the women's IPL - scheduled for March 2023 - was also less than ideal for commercial reasons.
With the change in PCB's leadership, it was agreed in the PSL governing council meeting that the women's league was unfeasible at this time of year. The PCB will, however, continue to explore avenues for the league. There were discussions around having some exhibition games during the men's PSL as a test case, though this idea was also shelved.
ESPNcricinfo understands the PCB administration was reluctant to adopt this idea citing a lack of resources. Instead, they wanted to invest more on the infrastructure to expand the pool of players across the country. But later with deliberation, it was agreed to have a separate tournament from the men's PSL and across two venues.
One of the major challenges the PCB will face is the formation of teams with adequate competitive players from the local pool. There are a handful of players on the Pakistan women's circuit, with approximately 30-35 cricketers at the senior level. The domestic circuit for Pakistan women's cricket has two tournaments: three teams each playing the National T20 and ODI Challenge Cups. There is a big crop of cricketers picked up from trials ahead of the ongoing Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup, but the batch is still fairly young and in their developmental stages.
At the time the league was announced, Pakistan had 12 centrally contracted women's players, increasing the number by eight last year. Pakistan would still need a further 28 local players for the league, meaning they will need to dig deep among their reserves for local talent. Lahore Qalandars have also expanded its Player Development Programme to include women cricketers, in a bid to expand the playing base in Pakistan. They have a batch of over 20 girls already under development at their high-performance centre and could conceivably become a feeder to the league.
Sethi had earlier scrapped the Pakistan Junior League (PJL), another of his predecessor Ramiz's projects. It incurred significant losses in its first year which had rendered its future uncertain even more with the change of administration. A financial report revealed the PJL was run at a cost of approximately PKR 997 million, while the PCB got a return of only PKR 190 million for it.
For the women's league, Ramiz's idea was to capitalise the PSL's production company and leverage their existence during the PSL to cover women's PSL, with the intention of saving a significant chunk of logistics and production costs. All PSL franchises had objected to using their money to cover another tournament without any rebate or cost-sharing. The new management is understood to be open to public tenders to build the league from scratch to make it a separate entity. PSL franchises have also expressed their interest to own the respective teams in the league.