Pakistan’s oft-criticised domestic structure has seen a recent overhaul that has drastically reduced the number of teams and players in order to improve the quality and competitiveness of domestic cricket, and the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) move has been hailed by several former cricketers.
Former Test fast-bowler and Lahore Qalandars head coach Aaqib Javed has called it ‘a dream come true’.
“I have studied the new domestic structure, it is a dream come true kind of a situation,” Javed was quoted as saying by a PCB press release. “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.”
The pacer also believes the move has helped make the system clearer and less confusing. “It was really tough to explain to outsiders what our domestic system was and there was a lot of confusion,” he said. “This new system has brought clarity.”
Pakistan were the only Test team to use a different ball in their domestic circuit as compared to their international games and that has addressed.
“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,” added Javed.
‘Courageous and bold’
Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja also hailed the PCB for the revamp.
“The old system was not working and its failings were reflected in our inconsistent performances on the international scene,” he said. “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.”
Ramiz’s comments were echoed by another former captain in Shahid Afridi.
“This system looks very good as it is set to promote quality over quantity,” he said. “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 six teams in the fray, we will surely see a drastic improvement in the quality of the competition.”
‘Pitches, umpires need to improve’
Others are calling for more improvement though. Former Test batsman Bazid Khan has had enough with sub-standard pitches in the domestic circuit.
“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,” he said. “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.”
He added that the quality of officiating must also improve. “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,” he said. “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.”
Former Test skipper Rashid Latif seconded Bazid.
“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,” he said. “Umpiring hasn’t been satisfactory in recent times at the domestic level, I hope there is emphasis on maintaining the standard from now on.”