Star Cricketers Back New Domestic System
The new domestic structure introduced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has received the backing of star Pakistan cricketers including present and former players.
The PCB unveiled an ambitious and competitive 2019-20 domestic cricket structure, which revolves around the creation of a more quality and intensity focused system to significantly improve first-class cricket and create sustainable success at international level.
The new structure will give importance to club cricket, provide the best cricketing environment to young talented cricketers, reward top performers, create employment opportunities for former cricketers and qualified coaches, and bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket.
System set to add value to first-class cricket, a courageous move by the PCB which should reap long term rewards: Former cricketers
Former Test fast-bowler and head coach of HBL PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars Aaqib Javed, is a fan of the new domestic system, and according to him, the new system is focusing on quality while overcoming the challenges and confusion of the past. He said:
“I have studied the new domestic structure, it is a dream come true kind of a situation. Our domestic system was criticised from all quarters in recent years and the reason was that the system was inclined more towards quantity rather than quality. It was really tough to explain to outsiders what our domestic system was and there was a lot of confusion.
“This new system has brought clarity, we know who all would be playing first-class cricket, and, we have also been explained in detail regarding the Second XI cricket. There is a clear pathway for the age group players with the performers graduating to the top-level. Unlike the past, the promotion and relegation would be of players not teams, which is another correct step since you need players, not teams from domestic system.
“A very important aspect in the domestic structure is the facilities, pitches, dressing rooms, ground conditions and balls. The deployment of the Kookaburra ball is a very good development. We have seen in the past that bowlers who used to bowl with Pakistani domestic balls really struggled with Kookaburras at the international level.
“A major concern that seems to have been overcome is the financial aspect for players. With departments removed from the system, there were doubts about players’ future. However, this new system is offering up to PKR2million for a season to a player. It is a good start. I wish the very best to PCB, as a coach and former player, I really like the idea.”
Former international player Ghulam Ali, who played domestic cricket in Pakistan for 17 years, feels the new system will produce mentally tough cricketers, who should progress to international cricket with relative ease. He said:
“There were some doubts about the new domestic structure, initially; there was some resistance to the change, now it seems that there are some real positives, especially, since there are only six very competitive teams. This system will ensure quality which means the performers here would be mentally tough and should be able to make the next step to international cricket relatively easy.
“The pay structure looks pretty impressive, players will have to work hard to maintain fitness in order to ensure they keep their contracts and perform at a consistent basis.
“The pay increase in prize money for teams is another positive step. There would be a bigger base for coaches, players and administrators at the same time. My best wishes are with the new system and if it is allowed to run for three years it should provide results.
“PCB, meanwhile, should also work towards the welfare of first-class players, especially, post retirement. Players should be given pensions and their medical should be covered. When players know their future is taken care off and they won’t be left alone it would allow them to concentrate fully on the game.”
Former Pakistan captain and renowned commentator Ramiz Raja has congratulated the PCB on the new domestic system. Ramiz hopes the system will bring meritocracy both in administration and player selection. He said:
“It is an extremely courageous and bold move by the PCB to revamp the domestic structure. The old system was not working and its failings were reflected in our inconsistent performances on the international scene. This new system is very logical with emphasis on city based and province based system. I want to congratulate the PCB on this important step. Going forward, it would be vital for the PCB to hire capable administrators to run the city based associations, people who don’t have vested interests or indulge in club level politics.
“The associations must be run professionally like the provincial sides, good administration; I feel, is absolute key for success of the system. Former cricketers should also work in administration of the team; similarly, the associations and provinces should be given ownership of selection of players and held accountable. The system has to ensure that talent is not lost due to a poor selection or a personal bias.
“The PCB should also unveil a telecast/broadcast plan to attract sponsors, advertisers and investors. The various competitions identified in the system should be run on HBL Pakistan Super League style or as close to it as possible as it will help create a fan base. If all these aspects are packaged properly this system will flourish for sure. The system is good and it has a lot of potential and should produce superstars for Pakistan cricket.”
Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has backed the new domestic system. Shahid feels the system will once again bring value to first-class cricket and cricketers and it will encourage performers, making them work hard to retain their contracts. He said:
“This system looks very good as it is set to promote quality over quantity. In recent years, first-class cricket was made a little too easy and a lot of first-class players emerged due to the sheer quantity of games. This new system brings back value to a first-class cricketer, which I feel had gone missing with the increase in quantity of players. With only having six teams in the fray, we will surely see a drastic improvement in the quality of the competition.
“At the same time, players playing these events will have to produce their best all the time and would work really hard to ensure that they retain their contracts. I feel that this system should be given at least three to four years then only we would be able to gauge the merits of the system.
“For now it seems a very good system with benefits for the players in a real competitive environment, I would like to wish the best of luck to all involved.”
Pitches quality should improve, more focus than ever on umpires, who must up their game: Bazid Khan and Rashid Latif
Bazid Khan, former Test batsman and now a renowned commentator, feels the biggest positive of the new system should be the quality of pitches and also hoped that umpiring standards would improve with greater scrutiny than ever on the match officials. According to Bazid, the use of the Kookaburra balls is a move which should help narrow the gap between domestic and international cricket. He said:
“The quality of pitches should improve since the matches would be spaced out and you can have the best curators work on the pitches and on the venues. If the pitches are substandard, the curators can be questioned as they won’t have the lack of time excuse anymore. In the past, it was impossible for curators to give sufficient time to pitch preparation due to packed schedules.
“Another advantage is that monitoring the umpires would be easier, rather than 12 odd games at a time, only three first-class matches would be played in a round. As a result, only six teams would be giving reports on umpires’ performance which will make it easier for PCB to keep tabs. I hope more quality over quantity will have a good effect on the standards with the improved scrutiny on the umpires’ performance.
“The change in balls should also help narrow the gap between international and domestic cricket, in the recent past or the last 10-15 years, the condition of the pitches and the balls used was totally different to international cricket which made adjustment to the highest level, a major challenge both for batsmen and bowlers.
“There would be more focus on these games for the mere fact that the number is reduced, the schedule has been announced in advance, giving everyone time to prepare for the games and even if you want to watch the games you know where and when to go.”
Giving an elaborate assessment of the new domestic system, former Test captain and now an established cricket pundit, Rashid Latif said, the new domestic system is focused on providing more quality, through the new system’s spaced out first-class schedule, the curators will have plenty of time to prepare quality pitches. Rashid is willing to give the system two to three years for fruition and a positive impact on Pakistan cricket. He said:
“The standard of pitches should improve considerably since the games are spaced out while umpiring will be under more scrutiny than ever which should hopefully help improve this crucial aspect of the game. Umpiring hasn’t been satisfactory in recent times at the domestic level, I hope there is emphasis on maintaining the standard from now on.
“There might be some difficulties at the start, since the teams have lessened and the regions have been merged. Last year, 353 players took part in first-class cricket, while this year, the number should be around 212 including the centrally contracted players for first-class and non-first class games. The competition will be tough and the system will include the best senior and junior players.
“Coaching staff in first and second eleven should be top-class. The head coaches would have a lot at stake and would need to induct solid teams under them which would be a challenge. I feel that the new opportunities for coaching should be available for both NCA coaching staff and the new coaches who will have fresh ideas and approach. The players who are retiring or are on the verge of retirement have a lot to look forward to in terms of coaching opportunities.
“Provincial cricket should succeed but it would require a lot of monitoring, the lower tiers, city based cricket and age-group selections should be properly monitored and the games should be broadcast or streamed. Selections should be purely on performance in the games rather than the trials system, U13, U16 and U19 are very vital for sustenance of the sport.
“The system will take up to three years to bear fruit, once the teams are picked up by investors/franchises, the financial burden would also ease on the PCB. It is thus vital to ensure that we have quality in the system to attract people. There is hope aplenty and these are exciting times for cricket, if things are done properly and monitored at the same time, the system should provide rich dividends.”
“My best wishes are with the PCB for the effort they have made, the downside is that the departments have been abolished which is quite a shock for a lot of people. But still it is a big initiative and a lot off effort has gone into making the new structure. I do feel there would be some teething problems yet we would fully support this endeavour while at the same time pointing out the shortcomings. ”
Sarfaraz, Azhar, Fawad and Shan excited to feature and perform in a competitive and quality based system:
Sarfaraz Ahmed termed the new domestic structure as ‘competitive’. The wicketkeeper-batsman has featured in 49 Tests, 114 ODIs and 55 T20Is and has a rich experience of first-class, List A and T20 cricket (149 first-class matches, 194 List A matches, 181 T20s). He has represented Karachi Dolphins, Karachi Harbour, Pakistan International Airlines and Sindh in domestic cricket. Sarfaraz said:
“The new domestic system will be very competitive. The selectors will try and make strong teams. To me, the idea of a second XI is very exciting. The players who perform for the second XI will get a chance to progress to the main team and that will be a big boost to the players. At the top-level, the presence of six teams’ means that the focus would remain on the quality of the games.
“These are exciting times and I am very confident that the new system will make this year’s domestic cricket very competitive for the players and the fans alike. We will get to see good cricket which should help young players as they graduate to the highest level.”
Azhar Ali has appeared in 73 Tests for Pakistan, tallying 5669 runs at an impressive average of 43.27 with 15 centuries and 31 half-centuries. The 34-year-old has rich experience of Pakistan domestic cricket (187 first-class matches, 171 List A, 49 T20 matches), courtesy long appearances for Lahore and Khan Research Laboratories, while he has also donned the Pakistan A’ kit. He feels that exciting and competitive cricket is on the cards in the 2019-20 season following the overhaul of the domestic system. Azhar said:
“The new domestic system will be very exciting, cricket would be very competitive and quality will improve. Players would have to produce their A game all the time since there won’t be any easy games or opposition on offer.
“The good thing about well-balanced teams is that it will make the competition tough for all involved which means all the players involved would have to be on their toes throughout. The system is based on quality of performance only which is really exciting for all of us.”
Test cricketer Fawad Alam, who is one of the top performers in the domestic circuit, feels the real assessment of the new system will be made by the time the 2019-20 season comes to a close. In 155 first-class appearances the left-handed middle-order batsman averages 56.08 having accumulated 11441 runs with the aid of 30 centuries. The richly experienced southpaw has played domestic cricket for Karachi, National Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Customs and Pakistan Emerging Team. Fawad said:
“It’s a new system and hopefully it would be good for cricketers and Pakistan cricket. It will take time to grasp it properly as a player. In my own experience, playing international cricket is a bit easier compared to domestic cricket since there are many challenges that players need to overcome in a domestic season, there is a big struggle that one has to go through.
“Hopefully, the new system will help in that regard. I feel we will get familiarised with the system in the first season and then provide our feedback on what are the areas where improvements can be made. All in all, it is a positive development which will hopefully bring rewards in the longer run for Pakistan cricket.”
Test opener Shan Masood feels that the new system is set to provide quality over quantity, for Shan lesser number of teams with an equally distributed talent pool means, no opposition would be of inferior quality. The left-handed batsman has so far appeared in 15 Tests and five ODIs for Pakistan, at the domestic circuit, Shan has played for Federal Areas, Karachi Whites, Pakistan A and Rest of Pakistan U19s, he already has 112 first-class, 92 List A and 35 T20 appearances under his belt. Shan said:
“Since the pool of players has shortened, only the quality performers are likely to be seen in action. Top-class players will compete in first-class cricket, efforts will be made to ensure participation of centrally contracted players or the players who are Pakistan regulars which will further enhance the quality of the competition. In the past, we have seen that performers of events like National T20, Pakistan Cup have graduated to the next level and done well for Pakistan.
“It seems that unlike the past, the focus is only on quality of the competition rather than quantity. Through the new system we are likely to see meaningful and competitive games only, there won’t be any easy games, regardless of the pitches, the quality of the opposition will make it a tough proposition for the players. I really do feel that this system can bring good results, it should be exciting and worthy for all involved.”