The Pakistan Cricket Board has officially initiated a major overhaul of the existing domestic cricket structure by trimming the number of teams from 16 to six for the forthcoming 2019-2020 season.
In a bid to increase competitiveness and significantly improve the first-class system, all departmental sides have been removed from the fray with the previous 16 regions being absorbed into the newly formed associations.
These include Sindh Cricket Association (Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana), Balochistan (Dera Murad Jamali and Quetta), Southern Punjab Cricket Association (Multan and Bahawalpur), Central Punjab Cricket Association (Faisalabad, Sialkot and Lahore), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cricket Association (Peshawar, FATA and Abbottabad) and Northern Cricket Association (Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Azad-Jammu Kashmir).
The new structure came into existence following the approval granted by the federal cabinet for the amendments to the PCB constitution earlier this month.
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“We are delighted to announce that we have achieved the target of reforming our domestic structure. One of the key priorities of this PCB administration is to enhance the quality of cricket, which will in due course also begin to reflect in our on-field performances at the international level," PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said.
There is a renewed focus on strengthening club cricket and rewarding top players in the drive towards decentralization of the domestic cricket system in the plan laid out by the PCB.
The new structure will be based on a three-tiered bottom up approach according to which cricketers have a clear pathway ahead of them to progress to the top level.
In the first tier, the 90 city associations will be responsible for organising club and school cricket in their respective jurisdictions and subsequently forming their city cricket teams
In the second tier, the city cricket teams will participate in intra-city competitions within the jurisdiction of their cricket associations
In the third tier, the best performing players from the intra-city competitions will form the six respective cricket association side that will participate in the PCB-organised tournaments
There "will be six High Performance Programmes which will provide quality cricket and lifestyle plans to equip players with the all-round skills required in the modern game", the PCB statement read.
“A clear pathway is being laid out for the club cricketers to graduate to the provincial level cricket at the apex level. In all, approximately 450 players, coaches, physios, selectors and other support staff will be involved in domestic cricket," PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan declared.
The three levels have been put in place to prioritize and sustain the practice of meritocracy in amplifying the quality of cricketing talent produced in the country.
The remuneration for players has grown as part of the structural reforms.
32 non-PCB centrally contracted players will be given an annual contract by each cricket association - 16 each from the first XI and second XI.
Besides the annual contracts, cricket associations are free to select players on a per-match mode of payment creating more employment opportunities.
A high-performing cricketer can earn a maximum of PKR 2.5 million per season in terms of allowances, match fees and prize money including the monthly retainers of PKR 50,000.
Each cricket association will assemble a support personnel staff that comprises of people filling in coaching capacities in different aspects of the game including physiotherapists and video analysts for the first-class, second XI, U19, U16 and U13 teams.
“The PCB will provide assistance to the provincial associations in setting up the structure, which will include helping them in assembling a council – which will look after the affairs – and aiding them in attaining sponsorship deals," Mani assured.
All domestic tournaments will be played with Kookaburra balls as opposed to the Dukes in place before.
This rule has been enacted to prepare domestic cricketers for international cricket where all major limited-overs contests are played with Kookaburra balls.
Pakistan's home series that are usually hosted in the UAE also implement the use of Kookaburra balls.
The PCB will invest PKR 2 billion in developing the stadiums in Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi and Quetta.
The board has also communicated a desire to improve the state of pitches in the country that usually feature green tracks where the competition is overtly tilted towards pace bowlers.
Additionally, PCB is believed to be taking measures to improve the quality of media coverage of the events.
The 31-match Quaid-e-Azam Trophy will commence on September 14, with red-ball cricket being given the most attention.
“The launch of the new domestic structure perfectly aligns with the World Test Championship, which commenced with the Ashes. Pakistan's opening series is in October and we aspire to feature in the final which will be held at the end of the two-year cycle in 2021," Khan stated.
“The PCB strongly believes in the primacy of Test cricket, which is the traditional format of the game and in which we have slipped in our performances. We firmly believe this structure will not only help the PCB raise a team that can play in the 2021 final but also an opportunity to the talented and skilled cricketers to represent Pakistan in the purist format of the game."
The dates for the tournaments are as follows:
Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (first-class, four-day matches, final will be a five-day fixture): 14 September – 08 October; 28 October – 13 December
National U19 tournament (three-day and one-day tournament): 1 October – 12 November
Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (2nd XI, three-day matches, final will be a four-day fixture):14 September – 10 October; 28 October – 29 November
National T20 Cup (both first and second XIs will play simultaneously): 13-24 October. First XIs will play in Faisalabad, second XIs will play in Karachi
Pakistan Cup One-Day Tournament (both first and second XIs will play simultaneously): 29 March – 24 April 2020.