The story of the Fawads, Tabishs, and Naumans, alongside many others.
Domestic Cricket has always been questioned, regarding the value of players’ performances. Since the last two decades, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has revised the domestic structure several times. The types of structure vary from having green top pitches to batting paradises, from departmental cricket in two tiers to departmental and regional cricket teams playing with each other, and then recently, doing a 180-degree restructuring.
The recent structure in place consists of six regional cricket teams in all formats that compete against one another twice in the league stages. The top two or four teams then qualify for the semi-finals or final. But why are we so late in picking domestic performers and giving them a chance in the national side? Let us examine what is wrong with Pakistan’s domestic cricket.
Let’s start with the encouraging yet inspirational stories of Fawad Alam, Nauman Ali, and Tabish Khan, who have recently been included in Pakistan’s Test team. All the three mentioned players had performed superbly in domestic cricket but were deprived of the green star for a very long time. Finally, Fawad Alam was picked in the team for a comeback but not given a chance right away. Making a comeback is even tougher than the debut as critics are much more activated.
Finally, Fawad got a chance – he was again not an automatic choice, though. Rather, he was given another chance in the absence of another player; however, the rest is history. Regarding Tabish Khan, he kept on performing year after year and earned a maiden Test call-up for the national side… after picking up 598 wickets in First Class cricket. However, the series against South Africa ended without him getting a green cap.
Coming to another similar story, that of left-arm spinner Nauman Ali. He was made the captain of Northern (domestic team) and not only did he perform, but he made his team one of the successful teams since the latest revamp of the domestic structure. He was a late-bloomer as far as performances in domestic cricket are concerned, but he still had to perform for the last four years consistently until he also earned a maiden Test call-up. Nevertheless, the team management saw something in him and picked him for both Tests against South Africa. There, he played an important role in Pakistan’s series win.
Critics always find a way to humiliate domestic performers. Comments from critics usually include:
- Fawad is not international material. With his stance, it will be difficult to play against fast-bowlers.
- Tabish has been performing on unprepared pitches; he would not be able to bowl with the Kookaburra ball.
- Nauman is not a big spinner of the ball and is not one for the future.
Statements like this have often been passed and circulated in media, especially social media. However, year after year and player after player, domestic performers have been able to turn the tables at the international level. Fawad Alam and Nauman Ali are two recent examples, but the past also suggests the same. Tanvir Ahmad and Abdur Rauf were two domestic performers who had shown promise at the international level but were selected during the twilight of their careers and soon dropped. Consistency has always remained an issue with Pakistan’s national side on the part of the selection committee.
On the other hand, there is a long list of players who were consistent performers at the domestic level but struggled big time in international cricket. This aspect always keeps people in doubt about domestic cricket and its value. Some of the wrongdoings are also on the end of the selection committee as players are often selected on one-off performances or for the wrong format.
The selectors have also lacked the aptitude to assess what format can be best for a player. The prime example is that of Abdullah Shafiq, who is a bright prospect for 50-over and Test cricket. However, he was selected for the T20I side after a good display in the National T20 Cup, despite his average strike rate. Understandably, he struggled on his Pakistan debut.
The Future of Selection
Now, the way forward and how to select a domestic performer for the national team should be stringent and standardized. A player performing in a domestic tournament, may it be, T20, 50-over, or four-day cricket should be assessed for at least 2-3 years. Any player can have a one-off good season. Hence, players should show some consistency before earning their maiden call-ups.
This will not only improve the structure of selection but also prove a point to all domestic cricketers: Consistency will be rewarded. This selection mechanism will also improve transparency.
The new domestic structure has shown competitiveness, standardization, and improved quality. Let us hope that this structure fills the much-needed gap.