PCB revamps Pakistan's domestic T20 competition
In a bid to intensify the level of competition in Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 Cup with more focus being laid on quality rather than quantity, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to revamp the 11-year-old format which featured 18 city-based teams and will now instead see eight regional-based teams fighting it out from this season onwards.
With the Pakistan Super League finally getting underway this year, question marks were always going to be raised about the prominence of the T20 competition and the PCB is leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to generate more interest in the trophy.
"The main idea is to make it more competitive and this model is more commercially viable," head of domestic cricket committee Shakeel Sheikh told ESPNcricinfo. "We were playing with too many teams earlier and quality was suffering. But now with having lesser teams we can enhance the quality and this new model is attracting more sponsorship and is much stronger to sustain for long."
With a packed international calendar to content with, the PCB has been forced to hold the tournament from August 25 to September 16 with much of Pakistan’s first team players out on national duty with the ODI leg of the ongoing England tour.
All the eight teams have picked their fifteen-member squads for the tournament which also includes the internationals and they will be made available for selection as and when they are ready to return to action after coming back from England.
"We have allowed the teams to select their national cricketers once they return and they will be added in the later stage of the tournament," Sheikh said. "We are actually struggling to find a window for the T20 Cup and this available window is the only one we can utilise."
"This draft is temporary as we are just assessing the impact of it," Sheikh said. "This selection process is vital for a marketing point of view as sponsors want to have competitive teams and with the draft, we can make well-balanced teams. I don't think we have left out any good cricketers and even every region has its own local captain.
“We have also selected at least four local cricketers per team as a compulsion so that the cycle of new players coming from the respective regions can benefit the regions."
With the new format featuring the top seven grade one regional teams from last season and the top regional team from grade two, the teams have thrown up some interesting combinations with senior players like Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq set to play under the captaincy of much younger cricketers.
Ahmed Shehzad, who has had many disciplinary run-ins with the PCB, has also been interestingly made skipper of one of the franchises.