Since the election of Imran Khan as the prime minister of Pakistan, much has changed in the cricketing affairs of Pakistan. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi has resigned, and the new prime minister has already nominated former ICC president Ehsan Mani as Sethi’s successor.
Over the course of his election campaign, Khan had promised major reforms in the cricket board and vowed to get competent people in the framework. In addition, one of the important points on Khan’s agenda has been the abolishment of the departmental system.
In an exclusive interview with Cricingif, Abdul Qadir, Khan’s teammate from playing days famous for his magical wrist spin and now a coach of one of the departmental teams, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), pleaded the prime minister not to scrap the departmental cricket system.
“I’ll talk to Imran Khan on his stance of getting rid of departments,” said Qadir who represented Pakistan in 171 international games.
“You [Imran] are a fatherly figure. When everyone came out all guns blazing on Khan’s intentions of scrapping the departmental system, I still maintained that Khan is a gem and his advice must be considered. However, I will not support this call as departments groom and nurture the verified talent.”
Pakistan’s domestic structure has witnessed various alterations over the years. Currently, both departmental and regional teams contest the premier first-class tournament together. However, the departments and regions have separate List-A and T20 tournaments.
Moreover, the pay gap between the talent hired by departments and the regions is significant. While the PCB pours in the money into the regions, departments are responsible for maintaining their structure themselves.
“If you plan to reduce the number of teams or increasing sponsors, then that’s not an issue. You will get dozens of sponsors. But if you tried to tamper the departmental system, it can harm you politically as well,” added Qadir.
“The reason is, every department has sports cells which hires hundreds of people to look after and manage all the sports. If you end the departmental system, you are not only going to render these people jobless but will also impact thousands of families.”
Qadir also lamented the poor conditions of regional associations and pleaded Khan to look into their situation before taking any radical step.
“If you put in all the money in the regions, cricketers won’t leave even after the age of 40. There is no check and balance. When they won’t leave, from where will you get all the talent?
“When there were four cricket associations, we produced great players. All the regions that were created later couldn’t create a single great player. You need honest Test players in these regions and associations.”
Qadir, who represented Habib Bank Limited (HBL) during his playing days, reminded Imran Khan that all the greats of Pakistan were a product of departments. “From Hanif Mohammad to Imran Khan to [Javed] Miandad to me, all of us have played for departments.
“Even then if you decide to go ahead, I’ll challenge you for a cricket match. I’ll form a team from the departments, and you form one from the region. If your team beats me in any of the formats, I will give up. But I’ll continue to stand for whatever is right.”