PCB chief Najam Sethi unveils revamped domestic structure

*Grays of Cambridge balls to be used in first class tournaments

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Aziz Sethi on Wednesday unveiled revamped domestic cricket structure, combining the department and regional teams in one first-class tournament. Twenty-six teams – 12 departments and 14 regions – will now compete in the premier first-class competition Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, but in two divisions. It is pertinent to mention the demands to remove commercial and government department teams from the competition were ignored by the PCB before the revamp. Pakistan has long suffered from a below-par domestic structure. Many of its cricket heroes honed their skills in street games rather than with teams. Addressing a news conference at Gaddafi Stadium here yesterday, Sethi said that under the new structure regional teams could receive private sponsorship so that they can compete with better-funded government departments and teams run by private companies such as banks. Also present on the occasion was PCB’s director of game development Haroon Rasheed. 
Previously, the regions and departments played first-class cricket in separate tournaments – Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the President's Trophy. That format was in place for two years from 2012, but has now been done away with by the PCB administration under Sethi. “Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure has been unstable over the last decade, with revamps occurring almost every two years. To end the inconsistency, the new system has been announced for a five-year period, with a review to be conducted after three years,” Sethi added.
Haroon said the new domestic cricket championship would have two first-class divisions. “The division one tournament will be called ‘Gold League’ comprising six regional and six departmental teams while the division two will be ‘Silver League’ with seven department and as many regional teams,” he said. “Each year, the bottom two teams from division one will be relegated and the two top teams from division two promoted.” He said all the 26 teams (12 departmental and 14 regional outfits) previously taking part in Quaid-e-Azam and President’s Trophy separately would play jointly only in one first-class tournament i.e. Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. “There will be single one-day competition to be organised by the PCB from season 2014-15. The teams will be split between Patron’s Cup Gold and Patron’s Cup Silver on previous year’s one-day competition ranking accordingly,” Haroon added.
He said Pakistan’s domestic structure had never been consistent. “We are aware that the structure had duplications, loopholes and things going in two different directions. We were not getting quality from the previous structure. So there was a definite need for a revamp and we are hoping to get the result with the change. We have researched that last year, departments have not really invested in new players and no player from the 320 regional players managed to win a place for the national team. So there was a concern because the PCB has been investing huge amounts of money in domestic cricket but the output isn't really what we are expecting. So we have decided to merge both departments and regions to let them play each other. The new structure will have a new spirit and the format is a competitive one,” he maintained.
Grays of Cambridge balls: The ball used in domestic cricket has also been the subject of debate in Pakistan over the last five years. The imported Kookaburra was used in domestic competitions between 2000 and 2007, until the PCB, under Ijaz Butt, encouraged the use of locally manufactured balls. In 2012, the Kookaburra was reintroduced but the PCB has now decided to use the Grays of Cambridge – a local manufacturer engaged with PCB since 1973 – in first-class cricket. White Kookaburra balls, however, will be used for one-day and T20 matches.
The first-class tournament has been spread over four months and the PCB has decided to keep most of the matches in the south of Pakistan to avoid bad weather in the north during the winter. Last year, the PCB was forced to reschedule most of the matches from cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. “All domestic matches during the period from December 1, 2014 to January 25, 2015 will be scheduled in the south to avoid the extreme cold and foggy weather in the north, due to which a number of matches could not be completed in the last cricket season,” Haroon said.

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