The PCB has revamped Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 Cup into a format that features eight teams instead of 18. The old format, which had been in place for 11 years, was city-based; the new format will feature the top seven grade one regional teams from last season, and the top regional team from grade two.
The city-based feature was a defining one of the competition, with Sialkot Stallions being a major feeder of T20 players to the national set-up, along with Faisalabad Wolves. Also, the city-based format sparked rivalries and interest in the tournament without any major marketing. "The main idea is to make it more competitive and this model is more commercially viable," head of domestic cricket committee Shakeel Sheikh told ESPNcricinfo.
"We were playing with too many teams earlier and quality was suffering. But now with having lesser teams we can enhance the quality and this new model is attracting more sponsorship and is much stronger to sustain for long."
In the coming season, the tournament will be held at two venues with the group stage in Rawalpindi from August 25 and the latter stages in Multan. The final will take place on September 16. The timing of the tournament stands odd as Pakistan's limited-overs team will be in England and all the top cricketers will be away. "We have allowed the teams to select their national cricketers once they return and they will be added in the later stage of the tournament," Sheikh said. "We are actually struggling to find a window for the T20 Cup and this available window is the only one we can utilise."
The PCB has also done away with the traditional selection system for the tournament, introducing a draft process instead. The teams' regional heads, the head coaches of the regions, and the respective captains were involved in various rounds to pick their 15-man squads. A second draft will happen before the semi-final stage as, according to the PCB, the top limited-overs players will return by then and can be picked by the top four teams.
"This draft is temporary as we are just assessing the impact of it," Sheikh said. "This selection process is vital for a marketing point of view as sponsors want to have competitive teams and with the draft we can make well-balanced teams. I don't think we have left out any good cricketers and even every region has its own local captain. We have also selected at least four local cricketers per team as a compulsion so that the cycle of new players coming for the respective regions can benefit the regions."
In their 15-man squads, from the completed draft, Islamabad named Umar Gul as their captain, while Ahmed Shahzad and Kamran Akmal are to lead Lahore regions. Misbah-ul-Haq, who used to captain Faisalabad Wolves, will play for Karachi Whites under the leadership of Akbar-ur-Rehman, while Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi will play for Islamabad. (Agencies)