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Downfall of departmental cricket

Nigah Muhammad

The writer is a reporter and journalist.

Imran Khan, who took Pakistan to the heights of fame in the world of cricket, took many steps to improve sports in the country after becoming the prime minister. However, the national cricket team has been steadily declining under the rule of the most successful player and captain of the past.

For the past 68 years, Pakistan cricket has witnessed as much action off-field as on-field. The latest storm to hit the game is the abolishment of departmental cricket. The Pakistan Cricket Board, under its 2019 constitution, has revamped the domestic cricket structure which favours regional and provincial teams over departmental ones.

Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure took a major hit when Prime Minister Imran Khan rejected the reinstatement of departmental cricket in the domestic season 2020-21, which has rendered hundreds of cricketers jobless. The Prime Minister rejected the player’s plea as the domestic structure aims for changes which will have only provincial teams battling it out. The scope of cricket in the country is now limited.

Prime Minister Imran Khan believes that the departmental cricket had played a positive role in the past but it was not the case anymore. He noted that most of the contemporary cricketers representing departments were around 40 years of age, a scenario that was not too rosy for Pakistan cricket.

Imran Khan himself says that from my experience I am saying that Pakistan has so much talent that no other country has and under this new system we can hone our talent. Meanwhile, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, Test captain Azhar Ali and other players seem unhappy with the proposal.

The premier wants to build an Australian-style structure and had openly favoured it. He once said Australia has ruled the world of cricket due to this structure. PM Imran Khan’s views may be correct, but after the closure of departmental cricket, what will be the effect on the young players who have been playing cricket all their lives due to unemployment? Looking at the circumstances, would youngsters favour playing cricket?

Before abolishing departmental cricket, the government should have thought of providing alternative employment to the players.

Imran Khan himself is a sportsman and he knows very well that a player has no other source of livelihood. Now, why don’t the famous cricketers or those who are in the national team raise their voice for their teammates?

Nevertheless, a quick glance at sports in the country is enough to show how pivotal departments have been in producing a majority of the country’s legendary stars such as Hanif Mohammad, Fazal Mahmood, Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan.  

The domestic structure of Australia may have importance, but there is a lot of difference in the population, weather and sports strategy. Abolishing a tried and trusted system may not prove to be such a wise step.

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