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March 14, 2019

New first-class format may not last long


March 14, 2019

As the never ending saga of the first-class cricket is set to get a fresh start, there is a dire need for the policy-makers to take a realistic view of the hopes and aspirations of the major stakeholders before reaching a viable and agreeable conclusion.

It goes without saying that gone are the days when cricket used to be confined to some personalities or a few policy-makers. In past, these so-called protagonists were free and powerful to divert the shape of the game or its format to their own whims and wishes. In modern era the game of cricket has got the entire new concept. The game cannot realistically be run or played without the active participation of the area/city or region where it is played.

This concept is more or less visible in the cricket leagues being played around the world. And this is what our Prime Minister and legend of the game Imran Khan has been preaching all these years. He has been overwhelmingly supporting the importance of city or regional cricket at the expense of departmental and bank cricket.

The vibes being received from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) headquarters and the Task Force formed to shape up the first-class future however is giving a total opposite story. Knowingly or unknowingly the PCB Task Force is preparing a paper that would tilt all the powers in favour of departments, making them even more powerful in comparison to region and cities, thus negating the basic concept of first-class cricket that was there in the mind of Imran Khan. Needless to say this may deal a blow to the very concept Imran had been floating for years.

Regional heads have been invited for the one last pip talk on the new first-class cricket contours at the PCB headquarters Thursday (today). On their part, departments have already expressed their concerns on the changed first-class administrative format that envisages a system that would even dole out the major share of powers to departments. Apparently, the regions would be seen playing the future first-class cricket but factually it would be departments that having the final say in deciding all the important matters within that particular region.

For example, under new first-class administrative structure if National Bank gets associated with Karachi Region, the bank would become all the more powerful to run the city or regional cricket affairs. And as a consequent of that regional associations representative presence would be more a ceremonial one. The regions would be rather backbenchers when it comes to taking important decisions. These departments, which would be partially supporting the regions, would be having the ultimate say in the PCB Governing Board thus negating the basic concept of city and regional cricket. This new proposed format is also against the basic concept and teaching of the ICC that places more emphasis on the democratic cricket empowering the grassroots club to elect their representatives at city, state and then on national level.

Though making technical changes in the first-class structure has been the regular feature of the PCB in recent times, this is the very first time the board is preparing to shake-up the administrative structure of the country’s first-class cricket.

Initial news emerging from the Lahore, however, suggests that all the major stakeholders including departments and regions have their serious reservation on the proposed format. Regions are not ready to lose their powers and departments are reluctant to financially support regions without having the ultimate say.

Chances are that regions’ heads would oppose every clause of the proposed first-class structure during meeting on Thursday. Even if they agree to some, they would know well that such a format is meant to throw the system at the mercy of good relations with that particular department that would own them. Usually such relations may not last long.

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