ISLAMABAD: Following Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches at the National Stadium Karachi, the domestic cricket action shifts to Rawalpindi where Pindi Stadium will host the one-day Pakistan Cup starting on April 2 with opening match between Punjab and Balochistan.
The event holds immense importance as at the end of it, a 15-player squad for the World Cup and for short England series (prior to the World Cup) will be announced. Thus the Pakistan Cup provides another opportunity to the cricketers to stake a claim for a place in the biggest cricket spectacle on the planet.
Besides defending champions Federal Area team, four provincial teams would also be seen in action in ten-day long event. M Rizwan has been appointed captain of the Federal Areas cricket team, which will aim to complete a hat-trick of Pakistan Cup titles in the tournament. Federal Areas played under the name of Islamabad in the inaugural edition and failed to finish in the top two sides. However, under a new name, they bounced back in style in the 2017 final when they chased down a 324-run target to beat Balochistan by one wicket off the final delivery of the match.
Last year Federal Areas comfortably beat Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by five wickets when they achieved the 253-run target with five wickets and nine overs to spare. This year, Federal Areas will open their title defence on the second day of the tournament on Wednesday, 3 April, against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will be captained by Salman Butt. The opening fixture will be between Punjab and Balochistan, which will be captained by Kamran Akmal and Asad Shafiq, respectively.
Sindh is the other side in the tournament, which will be led by former Test fast bowler Umer Gul. The five sides have been chosen by the national selection committee, which is headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq. Players who have been playing regular and consistent cricket for the Pakistan cricket team, have not been included as part of the selectors’ policy of providing them sufficient rest prior to the all-important ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
“We have always selected players on their performances in domestic cricket. If there are any extraordinary performances on positions which are up for grabs, then those top performers will definitely be considered,” chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said. “The purpose of announcing the World Cup squad after the Pakistan Cup is to give value and importance to this tournament in which all the top performers below the national team players are playing and they deserve to be given equal and fair opportunity before the national side is finalised and announced.” Haroon Rasheed, Director – Domestic cricket said: “Pakistan Cup is a short but challenging competition in which the spectators will have an opportunity to watch some of their favourite cricketers live in action. I am confident that this tournament will live up to its reputation of producing some high quality cricket.” The tournament carries a total prize money of Rs 3.5 million with the winner collecting Rs 2 million. The losing finalist will get Rs 1 million, while player of the league matches will get Rs 25,000 each. The best batsman, bowler, all-rounder and player of the final will receive Rs 100,000 each. The PCB, as part of its strategy to further give incentives in domestic cricket, has enhanced the match fee of each player from Rs 33,000 to Rs 35,000.
Balochistan - Asad Shafiq (captain); Ali Imran; Ammad Butt; Awais Zia; Bismillah Khan (WK); Fawad Alam; Ghulam Mudassar; Haris Rauf; M Irfan Sr; Qaiser Ashraf; Taj Wali; Umar Khan; Umer Akmal; Waqar Hussain (WK) and Zeeshan Ashraf
Federal Areas - M Rizwan (WK, captain); Ahmed Shehzad; Asad Afridi; Bilal Asif; Israrullah; Khurram Shahzad; M Nawaz; Nihal Mansoor; Ramiz Raja Jr; Rumman Raees; Sameen Gul; Saud Shakil; Sohaib Maqsood; Waqas Maqsood and Zia-ul-Haq
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - Salman Butt (captain); Abid Ali; Adil Amin; Adnan Akmal (WK); Faizan Riaz; Khushdil Shah; Mohammad Irfan; M Irfan Jr; M Saad; Sohail Khan; Musa Khan; Umaid Asif; Wahab Riaz; Zeeshan Malik and Zohaib Khan
Punjab - Kamran Akmal (WK, captain); Anwar Ali; Bilawal Bhatti; Ehsan Adil; Fahad Iqbal; Iftikhar Ahmed; Kashif Bhatti; Khurram Manzoor; M Asghar; M Sami; Ramiz Aziz; Saad Ali; Sami Aslam; Sohail Tanveer and Waleed Ahmed
Sindh - Umer Gul (captain); Ahsan Ali; Amir Yamin; Ashiq Ali; Asif Ali; Hammad Azam; Imran Rafiq; M Hassan (WK); M Hasnain; M Ilyas; Nauman Ali; Rahat Ali; Sahibzada Farhan; Umar Amin and Umar Siddique (WK).
Fixtures (matches start 2pm):
Tue, 2 April – Punjab v Balochistan
Wed, 3 April - Federal Areas v Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Thu, 4 April – Balochistan v Sindh
Fri, 5 April – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa v Punjab
Sat, 6 April – Sindh v Federal Areas
Sun, 7 April – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa v Balochistan
Mon, 8 April - Punjab v Federal Areas
Tue, 9 April – Sindh v Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Wed, 10 April - Federal Areas v Balochistan
Thu, 11 April – Punjab v Sindh
Fri, 12 April - Final.