The upcoming season's Quaid-e-Azam trophy will be contested by 21 teams in all, of which eight will be departmental sides and 13 regional. The PCB released details of the first-class season following a meeting of the advisory council with representatives of the departments and associations in Karachi.
The first-class tournament, to run from October to January, will be divided into two pools of 10 and 11 teams and the bottom five teams will be relegated to Grade II cricket from the season after, thus leaving 16 teams thereafter to contest Pakistan's premier domestic trophy from the season after next. A system of promotion and relegation - two teams up and two down - will remain in force.
This is the third time in recent years that the Quaid-e-Azam trophy's structure has been changed to accommodate both departments and regions together. On each previous occasion the structure has been changed the very next season. Over the last few seasons, departments have played the Patron's Trophy - now gone - and regions the Quaid-e-Azam trophy.
The board also revealed details of a plan to make playing for a region as financially rewarding, if not more so, than turning out for a department. Traditionally, players have been employed by departments such as Habib Bank or PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) and have received salaries as well as match fees, which regions have been unable to match. Inevitably, when both departments and regions have been lumped together, the best players have represented departments because of greater financial rewards, leaving regions with weakened teams.
In an effort to combat this, the PCB has announced that each region will now select 20 players and would, in effect, sign them up to central contracts. Like the national team's central contracts system, there will be three salary tiers - Rs 20,000 a month, Rs 15,000 a month and Rs 10,000 a month - and also a match fee of Rs 10,000 per match.
Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer PCB, said the plans were designed to offer players a choice. "The decision now is a commercial one for the player and it is up to the player himself, whether he wants to play for the region or a department. But we have given them a choice now, which they didn't have in the past. Most players we have spoken to say they will turn out for regions."
The Pentangular trophy has also undergone a revamp. Having been contested by provinces and departments last season, it will now be a tournament played out by the 75 best-performing players of the land. The players will be selected on the basis of their performances during the season by the national selection committee. What shape and identity the teams will take has not been decided yet.
Plans to enhance the development of schools cricket were also unveiled at the press conference. The board is targeting 800 schools in events throughout the country and has set aside Rs 105 million for running the project. The matches will be watched over by the junior selection committee and talent scouts, who will ensure that outstanding talent has a structured path to progress through. A Pakistan schools team will also be formed.
The board also reiterated their plans to invest all gate money from international matches back into the cities and regions where the matches are held, a distinct move away from the attitude of previous administrations. Ten percent of the gate money will go back to the host association and the remaining will be divided equally among the 11 associations.