The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First-class cricket in Pakistan will pay

Calcutta: In what is unprecedented for Pakistan, all cricketers at the first-class level will be on a retainership and receive match fees from the 2003-2004 season.

The aim, of course, is two-fold: To make domestic cricket financially attractive and, more important, lift quality.

“We’re committed to changing the domestic scene and, towards that end, the players need to be looked after. The touching-up is being done but, otherwise, our scheme is ready,” Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Rameez Raja told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Former quick (and vice-captain) Aaquib Javed, one understands, has played a significant role in the PCB’s most ambitious domestic exercise.

Speaking from Lahore, where the PCB is headquartered at the Gaddaffi, Rameez added: “Once everything is in place, we will float tenders for sponsoring the seven-eight provincial sides. That, in effect, will set the ball rolling for the changes planned.”

According to Rameez, an ex-captain and multiple World Cupper, every single first-class cricketer will be assured a retainership in the region of (Pak) Rs 30,000 for each month of the season. That apart, he will be allowed to “negotiate” his match fee with the sponsor who ‘buys’ the provincial team.

Incidentally, the institutional sides — PIA, for instance — won’t be allowed to compete in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament. Their participation will be limited to the Patron’s Trophy.

Quite sensibly, the two (first-class) tournaments won’t clash and, so, the players will be able to turn out for both institutional and provincial teams.

“Ideally, we would like one sponsor to pick up all seven-eight sides... In the event that a team doesn’t find a sponsor, the PCB will foot the retainership-bit… In any case, we do expect teething problems,” Rameez pointed out.

Besides Lahore and Karachi, the provincial sides are: Hyderabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. However, there’s a proposal for merging Rawalpindi and Islamabad and giving that eighth berth to Fata (Federal Administrative Tribal Agency), which adjoins the border with Afghanistan.

While confirming that sponsors will queue up for Lahore and Karachi, Rameez indicated both teams should fetch a sponsorship of about Rs 2.5 crores. Obviously, the sponsor will get handsome mileage.

The logo apart, the sponsor will have in-stadia rights at the provincial side’s home ground and will be free to market the team in any manner whatsoever.

Moreover, the semi-finals and final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy will be telecast live. In fact, the two national limited overs competitions — one for the institutional sides and the other for provincial teams — will also be similarly telecast.

Clearly, revamping domestic cricket — talked about at length after Pakistan’s awful show in the last World Cup — isn’t just a slogan for Lt General Tauqir Zia and Rameez.

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