KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday unveiled the much-awaited Domestic Cricket Structure, which according to board’s game development director Haroon Rashid would uplift the standard of the game and have long-term benefits.

According to the schedule released, the PCB outlined how the domestic cricket would function in a busy season and help prepare a strong Pakistan squad for the ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.

Haroon, while talking to Dawn from Lahore, stressed that the changes were necessitated from previous seasons because of the declining standard observed in domestic competitions. “The basic idea is to strengthen Pakistan cricket from the grassroots level. For a long time it was felt that domestic cricket was in the need for an overhaul to make it more competitive and appealing for the public,” Haroon said. “With a strong base [domestic setup] Pakistan cricket will definitely grow. It is a gradual step that we have taken to improve the overall system which would obviously help in making domestic cricket strong.”

Haroon further said that a Pentangular One-day Cup competition has been added to the domestic calendar. “The theme behind staging this tournament is provide maximum practice to the national team players who would be representing Pakistan at the World Cup.”

The salient features of the 2014-15 season are that simultaneous two first-class tournaments under the main title of Quaid-i-Azam Trophy would be held from Oct 12 with all 26 teams of departments and regions competing in separate leagues.

In the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy Gold League, the top six finishing departmental outfits of the President’s Trophy first-class 2013-14 season would participate alongside six top regional teams of last season’s Quaid-i-Azam Trophy would compete against each other on single-league basis.

The departments which will play in the premier first-class event are United Bank Limited, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (President’s Trophy winners last season), National Bank of Pakistan, Wapda, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited and Port Qasim Authority.

The regions to compete are Islamabad (Quaid-i-Azam Trophy champions last season), Karachi Blues, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore Shalimar and Multan.

In all 67 matches, including the Jan 18-22 final between the top two teams in the standings, are scheduled in the Quaid Trophy Gold League. One department and one region (the lowest finishing teams of each category) would be relegated to second-tier Quaid-i-Azam Trophy Silver League.

The teams competing in the Silver League are high-profile departments like PIA and Habib Bank Limited (both had a forgetful last season) as well as KRL State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Television and the promoted Sui Southern Gas Company which won the qualifying Patron’s Trophy competition last season.

The above-mentioned six departments would play along with eight teams of the regions, namely Karachi Whites, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Lahore Ravi, Bahawalpur, Quetta and Abbottabad.

But unlike the main league, the Silver League would have two pools with each having seven teams. The top four sides from each group would qualify for the knockout phase that begins from the quarter-final stage. The final of this event is slated to be played from Dec 3 to 7.

The top finishing teams (one department and one region) would earn automatic promotion to the Gold League for the 2015-16 season, while the bottom department team would be demoted to President’s Trophy Grade-II for the 2-15-16 season.

In other major changes, the previously held National One-day Cup and President’s Cup have been renamed Patron’s Cup with two different leagues (as in the first-class segment) to be played from Jan 25 from Feb 8.

Based on their standings in the last season, the Patron’s Cup Gold participants are National Bank, KRL, SNGPL, PQA, ZTBL, State Bank (departments), Karachi Zebras, Peshawar Panthers, Rawalpindi Rams, Lahore Lions, Karachi Dolphins and Islamabad Leopards with bottom team of each category to be demoted for the 2015-16 season.

The teams in the Patron’s Cup Silver are UBL, PIA, HBL, Wapda, PTV and SSGC as well as Bahawalpur, Lahore Eagles, Sialkot Stallions, Abbottabad Falcons, Faisalabad Wolves, Multan Tigers, Quetta Bears and Hyderabad Hawks with one department and one region to be promoted to the premier league.

The teams in Silver limited overs have been divided in three pools with five outfits in two groups and four in the third.

Following are the remaining tournaments of the calendar:

*Inter-regional Under-19 Cricket Tournament from Aug31 onwards (total 39 matches in three-day and one-day events).

*Pentangular One-day Cup played from Sept 11 to 21 (11 matches).

*Twenty-20 Cup from April 6 to 19 (35 matches) .

*President’s Trophy Grade-II from Feb 21 to March 22 (63 matches).

*Quaid-i-Azam Trophy Grade-II for four regions Feb 4 to Feb 27 (14 matches).

Published in Dawn, July 24th , 2014

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