The PCB made official on Saturday its tweaked domestic structure that, the board believes, will improve the quality of the game in Pakistan and internationally.
Domestic cricket in the country has often been a major target of criticism for Pakistan's often-poor performances in the international arena, with suggestions that the system was not robust enough to produce world-beating players. For the last two decades, therefore, the structure has undergone various changes: the first-class competition, for example, has had regional and departmental teams playing separately one season and against each other the next. Stability, however, has remained elusive.
This year, under the directions of Imran Khan, the country's prime minister as well as patron-in-chief of the PCB, the board has opted for an overhaul. The old departmental cricket model has been scrapped altogether from the PCB constitution, and the new structure will involve only six provincial teams, who will play all the formats in the domestic circuit.
Previously, there were as many as 16 teams playing, adding up to a total of 69 first-class games per season. With the new structure, six teams will play only 31 first-class games - and 16 T20s and 31 one-dayers - and they will be required to regulate the game across levels - the main team, the second XI, the Under-19s, the Under-16s, the Under-13s, and intra-city cricket.
"Until we have quality and competitive cricket, we can't have consistency," Wasim Khan, the PCB managing director, said while explaining the new model to the media. "We understand players crumbled under pressure, and this means the system isn't right and things have been haphazard. We are presently standing at No. 7 in Tests, sixth in ODIs, and No. 1 in T20Is - this is our present landscape. We don't need to forget this. We don't want this.
"We want consistency and if we get to the top, we should stay at the top. Consistency will come on its own when the system is right. With this new system, we had to take tough decisions, but had to be balanced.
"This new system is a clear pathway laid out for club cricketers to graduate to provincial-level cricket at the top level. We firmly believe this structure will not only help the PCB raise a team that can play in the 2021 World Test Championship final but also give an opportunity to talented and skilled cricketers to represent Pakistan in the purest format of the game. So this new structure is full of context and narrative in every aspect."
To put the model on the road, the PCB will form an eight-member committee for each of the six teams, which will run their association and later hand things over to the respective provinces. The panel will be made up of PCB's own nominees, representatives of the associations and principal sponsors, with the CEO, the CFO, and the selection committee helping them.
The structure will have three tiers.
In the first, the lowest, the 90 city associations will be responsible for organising club and school cricket in their respective jurisdictions and subsequently forming their city cricket teams
In the middle tier, the city teams will participate in intra-city events within the jurisdiction of their cricket associations
In the final tier, the best performing players from the intra-city competitions will form the six respective cricket association sides to participate in the PCB-organised tournaments
"The PCB will provide assistance to the provincial associations in setting up the structure, which will include helping them in assembling a council - which will look after the affairs - and aiding them in attaining sponsorship deals," PCB chairman Ehsan Mani explained. "The idea is to make them self-sustainable and gradually decentralise them. Ultimately, these are the ones who should be running the model and we will only oversee them."
The first-class season starts on September 14, with every team playing ten matches, home and away, on a double round-robin basis. The first-class and non-first-class (second XI) tournaments will run concurrently, providing the six associations depth to choose the best XI for their first-class matches. The same will be the case for List A and T20 cricket.
Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (first-class, four-day matches, final will be a five-day fixture): September 14 to October 8; October 28 to December 13
National U-19 tournament (three-day and one-day tournament): October 1 to November 12
Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (2nd XI, three-day matches, final will be a four-day fixture): September 14 to October 10; October 28 to November 29
National T20 Cup (both first and second XIs will play at the same time): October 13 to 24; first XIs will play in Faisalabad, second XIs will play in Karachi
Pakistan Cup One-Day Tournament (both first and second XIs will play simultaneously): March 29 to April 24, 2020