Lop-sided contests, overage players in domestic competitions belie PCB claims

Published November 9, 2020
To discourage the overage players, the PCB had abolished the departmental cricket teams besides discarding the 16 regional teams formula to reduce it to only six provincial teams. — AFP/File
To discourage the overage players, the PCB had abolished the departmental cricket teams besides discarding the 16 regional teams formula to reduce it to only six provincial teams. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The new domestic cricket system introduced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) two years back with the claims of bringing quality cricket and to groom young talent and do away with overage players have rung hollow the recently concluded National T20 Cup and the ongoing Quaid-i-Azam Trophy matches have not met the two targets.

To discourage the overage players, the PCB had abolished the departmental cricket teams besides discarding the 16 regional teams formula to reduce it to only six provincial teams, rendering hundreds and hundreds of professional cricketers jobless.

The new system, which is said to be inspired by the Australian cricket system, faced a lot of criticism from all quarters including from former players who correctly argued that the system in Australia, which has a population of just over 60 million, could never work in a country like Pakistan which has 220 million-plus population.

If anyone goes through the new system minutely, neither quality cricket has been witnessed nor the system could get rid of overage players.

The wide margin of victories in both the above mentioned events is a clear evidence that there have been no close competitions. Interestingly, the PCB’s hand-picked selectors even failed to strike a balance in the six provincial teams to ensure quality contests in domestic matches. Since there is no restriction on the selection of any player on the basis of his birthplace or province, it was easily workable to select any of the players in any of the six teams to field balanced sides.

A good number of 33 matches were played in the recent National T20 Cup but only eight matches could see any close fight while in other matches the winning margin was pretty wide.The victory’s margin in 11 matches was bigger than six wickets, including one win by nine wickets when Central Punjab crushed Balochistan. Later, CP also bulldozed Northern by eight wickets. KP also defeated Baluchistan by eight wickets in another match.

A good number of victories were by seven-wicket margins. Moreover, in eight matches the victory margin was also more than 25 runs and in some of these matches it was even as big as by79 runs, 73 runs and 70 runs.

And in the six matches of the first two rounds of Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, Sindh had defeated Central Punjab by six wickets, Balochistan crushed KP by 186 runs, Southern Punjab defeated Northern by 96 runs while Northern also crushed Central Punjab by nine wickets.

The incumbent PCB body had adopted the stance that it preferred to abolish departmental cricket because overage players were forming a major part of their teams and young talent was not coming up. However, several 30-35-plus cricketers have been picked up for the National T20 as well as the Quaid Trophy. Having said that, the wise experts feel that everyone who is fit and is performing deserves to play.

According to some details, a total of 104 players played for six provincial teams and among them 43 players are in 30-plus age category. Half of the 43 players are around 35-plus. Moreover, in the ongoing Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, so far 92 players have represented the six teams and among them 44 are 30-plus with a good number of 35 years plus, too.

The PCB has been persuading two former Test cricketers, pace bowler Umar Gul and opening batsman Imran Farhat, to announce their retirements from cricket because both are in 37-plus age bracket and both the players have conceded to it by announcing their retirements. However, many others of the same age have been allowed to prolong their careers.

Going against its own stance, the PCB’s selectors picked up many overage players who little or no chance of playing for Pakistan in the future. Among them some are those who had represented the country and still claiming a place in the national side like Mohammad Hafeez (40 yrs), Shoaib Malik (39 yrs), Wahab Riaz (35), Asad Shafiq (35), Fawad Alam (34), while there are others have either been tried and now discarded and those who have not been in reckoning for the national team selection such as Kamran Akmal (39 yrs), Sohail Khan (37), Sohail Tanvir (36) , Muhammad Irfan Senior (38), Umaid Asif (37), Akbar-ur-Rehman (37), Zohaib Khan (37), Sohail Akhtar (35), Asif Afridi (34), Sohaib Maqsood (34), Mussadiq Ahmad (35), Awais Zia (34), Ahmad Jamal (32), Tabish Khan (36), Waqas Ahmad (32), Kashif Bhatti (34), Anwar Ali (33) , Saad Nasim (31), Hammad Azam (32), Zahid Mahmood (33), Abdur Rehman Muzzamil (31), Ashfaq Ahmad (34), Nouman Ali (34), Faizan Riaz (32), Bilal Asif (35), Khalid Usman (35), Taj Wali (30).

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020

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