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Najam Sethi. (Photo- ICC)
Najam Sethi. (Photo- ICC)

PCB invites private, government departments to return to domestic cricket

ANI | Updated: Jan 25, 2023 15:43 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], January 25 (ANI): The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has invited the private and government departments of the country, besides three military institutes back into the domestic cricket fold. The PCB has started a restructuring of the country's domestic cricket and the return of 16-team hybrid first-class model will feature both regions and departments.
PCB has abolished the six-team model following the conclusion of the 2022-23 season in January first-week.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board has formally written to 27 leading departments, seeking their interest in participating in the PCB Domestic Cricket Season 2023-24, which will start in August," the PCB confirmed through a press release as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
"In the letters, the PCB has not only invited the departments to confirm their participation in the upcoming season at their earliest convenience [which] can help them prepare the season's calendar but has also encouraged them to set up strong cricket sides, assuring them maximum coverage and publicity through the traditional and new media," added PCB in their release.
Under the new structure, eight national and eight departmental teams will be a part of the country's premier first-class cricket event, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Every season, the regional and department teams finishing at the bottom get relegated and two toppers (one region, department each) from the Grade 2 tournament get promotion. Although the 2023-24 season starts from August, the Pakistan government had given the new PCB Chief Najam Sethi, a total of 120 days (starting from December 21, 2022) to reset the entire set-up and go back to the 2014 constitution.
PCB is making efforts to revive the previous model, reviving the 97 districts making up 16 regions. There are 3,200 clubs functioning on countrywide basis and feed players into the regional system.

The Pakistan government had recently removed the Ramiz Raja and his board by revoking the 2019 constitution under which the PCB was operating, bringing back Najam to head the management committee and giving them full executive powers to work on reviving the 2014 version of the constitution. Aside from the charges in the board and its structure, the constitution will also bring back the department teams into the domestic circuit, which were removed in 2019 after former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of the country. The PM becomes the automatic patron of PCB in the country.
Though PCB has communicated with the departments, it is not clear if they are willing to revive their teams in the current economy situation, where there might not be much appetite to hire a cricketing squad. Before Imran removed them, a lot of departments had shut down their sporting operations, including prominent ones like Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and United Bank Limited (UBL).
Incumbent Pakistan PM and current PCB patron-in-chief Shahbaz Sharif had issued a directive to all 18 government departments last year in October to restore governance of their sports structure and restart financing of sports departments. The pick-up has been slow though, with private banks having shown little interest after Ramiz Raja had wrote to them about reviving their teams. Various government departments are dependent on government budgets and have not been allocated a budget since PM's notification was given.
Many autonomous government departments like State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Sui National Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), Sui Southern Gas (SSG), Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) can allocate funds though it is uncertain if they see it as a priority. It is understood that not all 27 departments will be willing to return but at least 16 are a must under its proposed domestic structure.
PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars are among private teams willing to launch a team at grade 2 set-up to complement their player hunt program.
As per the 2014 constitution, the Board of Governors (BoG) will have 10 members including four regional representatives (the top four sides from Quaid-e-Azam Trophy), four representatives of service organisations (top four department teams) and two members nominated as per discretion of patron. To form a board, PCB needs an active domestic circuit.
The abolition of departments in 2019 led to resentment in Pakistan cricket fraternity. A group of former board members and players, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Gul have been urging the government to revive the previous domestic structure that included departmental teams like Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), SNGPL and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The model introduced on Imran's insistence led to a lot of players losing their livelihoods from their employment with the departments that left the domestic fold. (ANI)