The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday reverted to its previous structure of domestic cricket which included departmental and regional teams, while also adding another First-Class competition to the calendar.
The decision to move back to the old system means Pakistan cricket authorities have done away with the “quality over quantity” philosophy, implemented on the instructions of former Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan.
The PCB experimented with having domestic cricket with six teams for the last three years.
The 2023-24 domestic season will feature two separate First-Class events — the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Presidents Cup — with a total of 16 departmental and regional teams in the fray.
The board will also organise non First-Class events for 10 regional teams and more departments in the season.
In 2019, Khan’s proposal for a new domestic system had scrapped the role of the departmental teams in Pakistan cricket.
Only six regions were allowed to compete in the premier First-Class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, while the second XIs of the same teams competed in a non First-Class tournament simultaneously.
The board, without any sponsorship for the new structure, directly paid the players their match fees, allowances and monthly contracts besides air travel and stay in premier hotels.
The plan proposed by Khan was implemented and followed by former chairman Ehsan Mani and Ramiz Raja, and had come in for plenty of criticism for ending departmental cricket, which has been the backbone of Pakistan cricket since the 1970s.
Not only the former PM, but the board was also criticised for costing hundreds of cricketers their jobs with departmental teams.
In the new domestic structure announced on Friday, the board said the 2023-24 domestic season will bring more competition and quality cricket with enhanced earning opportunities.
The system will now have eight regional sides and as many departmental teams competing in separate First-Class tournaments.
“This step will make sure that the regions and departments compete on a level playing field by utilising the best available talent,” a statement said.
The board said the domestic structure is framed by the PCB Cricket Technical Committee, which is headed by former captains Misbah-ul-Haq and includes Mohammad Hafeez.
“The committee had several meetings with all stakeholders to bring them on board, including regional presidents and representatives of departments,” the release said.
Pakistan’s domestic season will start on September 10 with the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, pitting top regional teams against each other, following which, the top eight departments will feature in the President’s Trophy, starting December 15.
The two tournaments will be played on a single-league basis and the table toppers will play the final.
The 18 regional sides have been slotted with eight teams playing the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, while 10 regions will be playing the Hanif Mohammad Trophy, a non First-Class four-day tournament.
The board has renamed the non First-Class event as a tribute to one of Pakistan’s greatest batters.
PCB informed that 40 departmental and bank sides had registered for the upcoming season.
The board also announced white-ball List A and T20 events for the regions, with all 18 regions featuring in the T20 championship.
PCB added that departments will also play a white-ball tournament, the details of which will be announced later.
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