The changes made to the way domestic cricket is played in Pakistan should spark improvement
When last year Pakistan Cricket Board announced the totally revamped domestic structure featuring six regional teams, it invited a lot of criticism and it was said that hundreds of cricketers would be left unemployed.
But the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy had a lot of positives.
One positive thing was the three-member panel which was chosen for selecting up to 215 cricketers for six associations comprising Rashid Latif, Nadeem Khan and Misbah ul Haq. Another notable thing was the induction of at least one leg-spinner in each team. The introduction of no-toss rule prevented the home team from taking any unfair advantage. The matches were played on home and away basis. Strict actions were also taken against players and coaches in the form of fines whenever rules were violated. The points system was also improved.
Unlike previous seasons when the matches were played on wet pitches supporting fast bowlers and so finished inside two days, this season most of the matches ended without a result. Huge totals were posted and lots hundreds were scored.
This season also saw a total paradigm shift in the bowling department, as spinners completely dominated with Nauman Ali topping the bowling charts with 54 wickets.
The fast bowlers had their struggles this season with Tabish Khan being the top wicket-taker with mere 25 wickets.
Many young and talented players emerged from the country’s premier domestic tournament which was also given a lot of media coverage as press conferences were organised after each day’s play with best performers from both sides being questioned while captains and coaches were accountable after each result.
The average first innings total increased to 422 from 267, which means that the batsman got value of spending time at the crease and spinners got a large number of overs to bowl. Some of the matches ended with hard-fought draws.
The last game between Northern and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had a nail-biting finish with Northern declaring with a lead of less than 250 and KP losing by just 39 runs. This kind of tense and unpredictable matches were not seen in the previous format.
The 25-year-old Zafar Gohar of Central Punjab was adjudged the player of the tournament for his 38 wickets and 458 runs.
Some very young and talented batsmen emerged this season with Balochistan’s 24-year-old Imran Butt being the top run getter. The 19-year-old Northern opener Haider Ali scored 645 runs in seven matches with a hundred in the final.
The 23-year-old Zeeshan Malik of Northern scored 780 runs in eight matches at an average of 52 with one hundred and six fifties.
The big find of the season was 18-year-old talented wicket-keeper batsman Rohail Nazir of Northern, who had 17 dismissals in six matches.
Fast bowler Tabish Khan didn’t perform badly. That he took only 25 wickets at an average of 40.92 was because of the pacer-unfriendly conditions. Bouncy and quick pitches are needed for the next season which should provide fast bowler some assistance with the new ball.
These performers have done their part but it depends on the coach-cum-selector Misbah ul Haq to select performers like Nauman who can fill the spot of Yasir Shah, while experienced Tabish can make a good trio with Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah. Sami Aslam can be recalled for opening the innings. Will they get the chance they richly deserve? Or will they continue to be neglected? Only time will tell.