Let me say upfront that I think it’s a good idea to give importance to our second string of talent and give regional cricket a stake in the one-day championship. And there is nothing better than televising the semi-final and final matches and ensuring the senior selectors’ presence in all three matches. The pitches prepared for the matches were excellent for one-day cricket. For that full marks to PCB.
But to split into two the premier one-day tournament is in my view quite unnecessary, in fact calamitous for followers, statisticians, and historians.
Now there is one one-day cup for departments and one for regions, mutually exclusive when it comes to the players participating in it. So which one is the link to the past? Or is it both? Which winner, the department or the region, gets its name written on the leader board? The successor to teams that included names like Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Inzamam and Yousuf might have no player with international experience. Or is it the one-day cup for departments that is the real thing?
Or is it that it will be recorded that two finals of the national one-day cup were played for the 2013-14 season? Two winners declared in the same season and not because the final was abandoned? But wait, how can there be two runners up then? And two man-of-the-match recipients from among four teams that featured in the final?
For better or for worse, departments are still playing first class cricket with the blessings of PCB. They have been doing so for over four decades now and hiring the best cricketers in the country.
The national one-day cup has always been contested by departments. Now with the regions playing for the trophy, there is a complete disconnect when it comes to the archives. Suddenly you see that for the year 2013-14 one of the two tournaments included no international cricketer and many of them were club cricketers at best.
Confused I contacted PCB and was told that the regional one was the main cup, although for records both the tournaments would be cited equally on the leader board. The logic is that traditionally the teams vying for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy are competing for the more recognised title in our domestic cricket. And this season the regional teams are fighting for it. So in actuality we have belittled the father of the nation, by barring all top cricketers of the country from participating in a tournament that carries his name.
I wonder if this has happened anywhere in the world that two separate sets of teams play two separate and parallel tournaments for the same status. Two separate sets of lead scorers and wicket takers for the same title, just listed under different sub heads. Imagine a batsman -- Asif Zakir in this case -- with successive hundreds in the semi-final and the final has no chance for recognition at the top level because there was no recognised bowler in the opposition.
If he is picked up for the national side to show that regional players can be given chances at the top, will he be able to bat against international players with the requisite skill?
If I remember correctly there have been instances in the past where regional teams also participated in the national one-day cup alongside departments. But how can a Karachi team from the past be compared to a Karachi team of today in terms of success in the tournament, when the current team has an entirely different level of players representing the city?
A statisticians’ and historians’ nightmare it is. I am sure late Gul Hameed Bhatti, the iconic historian and statistician of Pakistan’s domestic cricket, will be turning in his grave. I hope Abid Ali Kazi who spent three decades documenting Pakistan’s domestic cricket and who is now in Toronto doesn’t leap in frustration from the CN Tower.
PCB had a pretty good system going where regions would contest the Grade II of the one-day cup and other tournaments. That way both departments and regions would contest at two different levels, as happens all over the world. If the quarrel was that the international cricketers and departmental players should not block the way of the upcoming lads, then enforce that rule by all means for the grade II level. Run it parallel to the national one-day cup if you wish. But to give it the same status is ridiculous.
I hope and pray they revert to the old system. After all every season is a new season in terms of formats and scheduling, so it’s all is a day’s work for PCB.
The number of cricketers appearing in tournaments has doubled, making it difficult to monitor them for performance enhancing drugs. The cost for PCB for having the samples processed has doubled. They turned to Grace balls instead of Kookaburra this season to lower the cost of running domestic cricket; then enhanced it when it wasn’t needed at all.
You may have heard the American saying: "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." Sometimes I think that people in PCB go around with a hammer saying: "If it ain’t broke, let’s break it."