Despite of the massive craze for cricket in Pakistan, the country’s domestic cricket has been neglected greatly in the past. For a country that has produced so many world-beating cricketers, in every era and format, it is a shame that domestic cricket is generally not given enough importance. Domestic cricket in Pakistan has been treated like a step child for very long, but not anymore. With the new and improve structure, Pakistan’s domestic cricket has finally got the attention and respect that it deserves. Domestic cricket is supposed to be the nurturing institution for the players who aspire to represent the nation someday. The new domestic cricket structure is an important milestone on the road to a stable cricket system in Pakistan cricket. It promises to be more competitive, intense and fierce, which is the need of modern day cricket. It is indeed a good initiative which will not only increase the quality of cricket at the domestic level, but will also elevate the standard of our national team.
The new domestic structure is based on a three-tier bottom up approach; providing a clear pathway for the talented aspiring cricketers to climb to the top level, bringing in more young and talented cricketers in the system and grooming them into better players! In the new structure, the former 16 regions have been absorbed into 6 associations. Each association will have a first and a second xi. Sindh Cricket Association includes Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana region. Balochistan Cricket Association comprises of Dera Murad Jamali and Quetta region. Southern Punjab Cricket Association includes Multan and Bahawalpur region. Central Punjab Cricket Association is made up of Faisalabad, Sialkot and Lahore region. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cricket Association includes Peshawar, FATA and Abbottabad region while the Northern Cricket Association comprises of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Azad-Jammu Kashmir region.
Another commendable step is prioritization of domestic cricket. Players have been told loud and clear that the criteria for selection in any format is going to be the domestic performance in the relevant format. Pakistan’s top cricketers who were playing cricket abroad, have been called back to participate in Quaid e Azam Trophy. Not only does it increase the value of our domestic competitions, but participation of all the top players also means more competitiveness and more publicity. There will also be more learning opportunities for young players. Another big positive of this decision is that now all the centrally contracted players and other domestic players will be judged on the same scale. When all the players are judged on the basis of same competitions, merit will prevail and it will be hard to ignore the top performers!
The players’ earnings will also increase in the new system. Thirty-two non-PCB centrally contracted players would be awarded annual domestic contracts at each cricket association and will feature in first-class, non-first class, List ‘A’, and T20 tournaments during a season. The cricket associations will also be free to select players from outside the pool of 32 contracted players on per-match payment. Each of the domestic contracted players will receive monthly retainers of PKR 50,000 and it is anticipated that a high-performing player will earn between PKR 2million and PKR 2.5million per season in terms of allowances, match fees and prize money. Besides the players, the new structure is also expected to create employment opportunities for the qualified coaching staff and former cricketers. Along with the administrative roles, each cricket association will have a players’ support personnel staff which will include head coaches, batting coaches, bowling coaches, fielding coaches, trainers, physiotherapists and video analysts to look after first class, second XI, U19, U16, U13 teams and high performance programmes. There will also be three selectors working with a cricket association each. The new season will also see the regular use of Kookaburra balls, which is an important step towards aligning our domestic cricket with the standards of international cricket.
Amid all these positives, there is a big negative too. Abolishment of departmental cricket structure has been criticized widely, as the decision puts a lot of associated personnel including players and support staff out of work. However, there is always a price to be paid for a change. Let’s hope its worth the price.
Having praised the policy makers for putting together the new and exciting domestic cricket structure, it will be unfair to not mention the commendable work PCB’s media department has been doing. Right from the word go, they have done a good job in promoting the new system. From a proper unveiling ceremony to promoting it across all social platforms, they have been great. New logos have also been introduced for the teams as part of their branding process. Moreover, selective first class games are also set to be streamed live on social media platforms, which is also a big step towards making domestic cricket more popular. The scores of all games will also be updated on the PCB website after every 5 overs, which is also a good initiative. Here’s hoping that the PCB keep up the good work and in near future we get to see ball-by-ball updates too. For now though, they are doing a great job!
Summing up, the new cricket structure is a breath of fresh air, and indeed a great step towards increasing the quality of cricket in Pakistan. In Misbah ul Haq, we have a coach and a chief selector who knows the importance of domestic cricket. Let’s hope he practically empowers the domestic cricket too, by providing opportunities to the top performers. If implemented in its true letter and spirit, the new domestic cricket structure is a win for the well wishers of our cricket…but more importantly, its a win for Pakistan! Let’s hope Pakistan wins!