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'There's been famine for the last four years' - Najam Sethi out to revive domestic cricket in Pakistan

"We will take domestic cricket to that level too so that we can get international players from it"

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Najam Sethi: "I am back after four years and there are lots of work to do"  •  Associated Press

Najam Sethi: "I am back after four years and there are lots of work to do"  •  Associated Press

Najam Sethi has formally taken charge of the PCB, putting the revival of domestic cricket in the country at the top of his priorities. Following the removal of Ramiz Raja, as PCB chairman, and the current board, Sethi will head a 14-member management committee that will take interim charge of affairs. The committee will have 120 days in which they are expected to change the PCB's constitution, bringing back the 2014 version to replace the current one (put in place in 2019).
"I am back after four years and there is lots of work to do," Sethi said upon arrival at Gaddafi Stadium, PCB's HQ, on Thursday. "I am thankful to the Prime Minister because it was his wish to revive the 2014 constitution and revive departmental cricket; regions should be revived and encourage the private sector and take cricket forward. A lot has been done here over the last four years, which I don't like to comment on. But the way we are seeing the cricket team and the problems of cricket players, we will try to solve them.
"There's been a famine for the last four years. Tell me how many cricketers have come through domestic cricket? It looks like only PSL is supplying players. PSL is a very big international brand and we will take domestic cricket to that level too so that we can get international players from it. My primary duty is to restore the spirit of the 2014 constitution. We will meet in a day or two and then we will discuss the major issues and let you know how we will move forward."
The change in PCB was brought in through a notification issued from the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's office and a summary from the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC). The formal approval came in late on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Sethi and his allies then arrived at PCB headquarters by noon.
Ramiz was in office until Wednesday and he signed off by approving Pakistan's squad for the upcoming home Test series against New Zealand.
The government has now given Sethi's committee full executive power to work on reviving the department structure, which was abolished in 2019. Departments were removed from domestic cricket during Imran Khan's premiership - he had been a longtime advocate for Pakistan's domestic scene to replicate that of Australia's, with six teams made up of Pakistan's provinces playing in all tournaments. The committee will be tasked with the responsibility of forming a board of governors and electing a chairman, with Sethi himself in the fray, as stipulated in the 2014 constitution.
How well the plan goes for reviving departments is unclear. A number of department sides had shut down their sporting operations even before Imran's change and, in the current economic climate, there might not be much appetite for such organisations to hire a squad of cricketers. Sharif had already issued a directive in October this year to all 18 government departments/institutes to restore the governance of their sport structure in Pakistan and restore the finance to sports departments. The pick-up on that has been slow - ESPNcricinfo understands that Ramiz Raja as chairman had written to private banks to ask about reviving their teams but they had shown little interest.
"Our sports ordinance, according to which the PCB is operated, is completely dependant on the patron - and he has a lot of rights," Sethi said of the change in the PCB. "They have exercised these rights previously and he will continue to do so in the future too. But I think performance is very important. If you do not perform well then it gives an opportunity to the people to make a change. If your performance is good then there's no reason to make a change. I thought we did well [during the previous tenure].
"We delivered a lot. When the government changed (in 2018) last time I was assured at the highest level that I will not be removed. But I felt it was not the right thing. It's the right of the patron to bring a man of his own choice and try to implement his own vision. I personally felt Imran Khan's vision will do more improvement and that's why I didn't want to stand in the way. I could have gone to the courts and fought, but I thought to go honorably. I don't want to go into detail about what happened over the last four years and how much they succeed. I won't go into details and we will see how we will take things forward."
According to the 2014 constitution, the composition of the BoG is based on ten members as the body will include four regional representations (top-four teams from the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy), four representatives of services organisations (top-four department teams) and two members to be nominated by the patron in his discretion. The federal secretary of the ministry of inter-provincial coordination or any other officer nominated by him shall be an ex-officio, non-voting 11th member. The term of each member of the BoG is three years - equivalent to one term of the chairman in a bid to promote continuity in the set-up.
Imran's model was also implemented by Ehsan Mani but it had drawn resentment in the cricketing circles in the country. A group of former board members and cricketers including Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Gul have been urging the government to revert to the previous domestic structure where departmental teams such as WAPDA, SNGPL and PIA were part of the first-class circuit. Imran's orders to abolish departmental cricket, eventually stand revoked by Sharif, who succeeded him as premier.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent