First Class Tournament Thrown Into Disarray To Pave Way for a Private T20 League
WAPDA and SNGPL qualified for the final of the President’s Trophy, the First Class tournament for department teams, on Wednesday, but they remain unsure when and where they will play the contest.
The uncertainty is the direct consequence of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s greenlighting of Sindh Premier League, a private T20 league. The SPL’s inaugural edition commences today, and the entire edition will be played at the National Bank Stadium, Karachi’s only operational Test venue, till 5 February.
Of late, the National Bank Stadium has been hosting the finals of First Class tournaments, and it was slated as the venue for the President’s Trophy final. However, the plan was dropped after an ad-hoc management committee, which currently runs Pakistan cricket affairs – under the chairmanship of Zaka Ashraf – gave the go-ahead to the SPL.
Zaka has since resigned from the post, and Shah Khawar, the PCB election commissioner, is serving as the chairman of the ad-hoc management committee. Zaka has been replaced by Mohsin Naqvi, who is the current interim chief minister of Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, in the management committee. He is a strong contender to be the next PCB chairperson.
One of the squad members of the seven participating teams told grassrootscricket.pk that the schedule shared by the board had National Bank Stadium as the venue for the final.
Though a PCB media release dated 16 December 2023 had the tournament final, a five-day affair, beginning from 27 January, a PCB official told grassrootscricket.pk that the final confirmation on the dates for the contest is still awaited.
The 21 group matches of the seven-team President’s Trophy have been played at State Bank Stadium and UBL Sports Complex, and National Bank Stadium has been the third venue.
The President’s Trophy marked the return of department teams in Pakistan cricket after a four-year hiatus as a complete overhaul of the domestic structure removed them from the scene. The board adopted a six-team structure – loosely based on the provinces – in August 2019 based on a new constitution. These six teams played all top-flight cricket in the country.
That constitution was, however, repealed in 2022 following the ouster of then Prime Minister Imran Khan, upon whose instructions it has been adopted, and the board reverted to the 2014 constitution, which structured the country’s domestic cricket on 16 regions and allowed department teams to compete in First Class tournaments.