LAHORE/KARACHI - The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is developing an extensive plan to restructure domestic cricket that will see the end of department teams, who will be invited to participate in the functioning of regional teams.
The proposal, generated by the board's director of game development Haroon Rashid, is yet to be made public though it has been circulated among the PCB top brass. The revamp is a step forward in allowing regional cricket to function independently and to make regional cricket self-sustaining. The PCB currently funnels over Rs 30o million every calendar year to keep it alive.
Players are in line for a 100 per cent hike in salary and funding of domestic cricket will gain three sources - the departments, sponsors and PCB. The plan's premise is that limiting the quantity of teams will heighten the quality of domestic cricket and allow regions to focus more on the players and build a viable talent pool.
The proposal reveals a new administration comprising five members: the regional president, a representative from the department, treasurer, marketing officer and one member from the PCB. Departments whose average annual budget is Rs 30 million are meant to inject the money in regional setup. And the PCB will offer monetary assistance on the basis of the region's performance.
The changes are yet to be presented to the stakeholders and are currently being evaluated by the constitution committee. It requires unequivocal support from the departments, but ESPNcricinfo understands they are not in favour of the proposal and would rather work independent of running regional cricket.
"We have our unique culture within our country and we can't just deny it," one of the department heads disclosed. "There is always room for improvement but this is not a solution as every corporate department has its own sports policy and it can't be dictated by the PCB. The relationship between departments and regions had never been comfortable as there are contrasting schools of thought among both the stakeholders. "Sports departments were initiated to support the individual players and not the sports body. The plan has no feasibility. None of the regional or department representations were consulted."
Pakistan was recognised as the second-largest cricket-playing country last year with as many as 537 grade one cricketers in their first-class tournaments. That count will decrease to 180 according to the new structure. The move is aimed at weeding out cricketers with limited skills making teams on the basis of recommendations.
Forty percent of domestic players from last year were under 25. The remaining were over 30, including 28 players who were over 35. Despite the vast resources, Pakistan failed to identify a single promising prospect last season and has given Rashid reason to push his suggestions.
The structure of domestic cricket in Pakistan has been highly fluid, with revamps occurring every two years in the past decade. The format of the first-class tournament was changed as recently as Zaka Ashraf's regime. Unlike this proposal, the previous one was centered on separating the regions and departments to play their own tournaments. The Quad-e-Azam trophy, the country's premier first-class tournament, was limited to 14 regional teams with the top eight participating in the main draw and the rest competing in a plate league. Regions could recruit five players from departments and four of whom can be part of the playing XI.
In the President's Trophy, as many as 11 departmental teams played a round-robin league phase, with the top two teams making the final. The departmental teams are: Pakistan International Airlines, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited, National Bank of Pakistan, Habib Bank Limited, Khan Research Laboratories, Sui National Gas Pipelines Limited, Water and Power Development Authority, State Bank of Pakistan, United Bank Limited, Port Qasim Authority and Pakistan Television.
Meanwhile, veteran Test cricketer Nasim-ul-Ghani believed that discarding departmental teams by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) could be disaster for the country’s cricket.
"It may be a small earthquake for our domestic cricket which could have serious impact on our national cricket," he told a group of reporters at Karachi Gymkhana on Thursday.
He was responding to queries about strong proposals from the PCB of elimination of departmental teams with more focus and stress on regional cricket. He said without preparing proper replacements and financial implications, discarding departmental teams will be very dangerous for Pakistan cricket.
Nasim, 72, who was pioneer member of affiliating National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) with then Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) said launching of departmental teams helped in lifting and raising the standard of domestic cricket by providing financial security to the players. "Game cannot flourish without providing players financial security and benefits," Nasim, who had the distinction of scoring first century at Lords, said.
He expressed his surprise that Director Domestic Cricket Haroon Rasheed submitted the proposals of elimination of departmental teams. "How come Haroon Rasheed, who was himself a product of NBP and then UBL, can think of such a proposals of discarding departmental cricket," he emphasized.
He said if the PCB was considering such a proposal, they must first launch professional set-up like in County Championship of England. "Without giving replacement system for financial security, the new proposals of discarding departmental cricket will have great negative impact," Nasim, who remained senior official of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and helped in awarding Test status to Bangladesh, added.
He said closing of several hockey teams in the past also proved disastrous and it could hit Pakistan cricket as well. Pakistan hockey badly slipped after closing of hockey teams by Allied Bank, Customs, UBL, MCB, HBL, Pak PWD and other departments. "Look at Pakistan hockey which suffered hugely after players became jobless and deprived of financial security," he recalled.