Several of Pakistan’s international players will take part in the Pentangular Cup which kicks off the first-class season on Saturday.
Defending champions Sind, captained by Shahid Afridi, will be meeting last season’s runners-up Federal Areas in their four-day tournament opener, at the National Stadium. The other match starting simultaneously today is between Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Quetta.
The five teams in the competition includes 75 of Pakistan's leading players, with the exception of Younis Khan, who is playing for South Australia.
The players from Sind, chosen from the Karachi and Hyderabad regions, includes upcoming batsmen Khalid Latif and Khurram Manzoor, allrounder Fawad Alam, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed and pace bowlers Sohail Khan and Anwar Ali, who earned national call-ups earlier this year.
Also in the line-up are Test batsman Faisal Iqbal, Naumanullah, Faisal Ather, Rizwan Ahmed and legspinner Danish Kaneria.
Federal Areas, including players from Islamabad and Rawalpindi, will have fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar as their star attraction. Rao Iftikhar, the captain, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Arafat and Yasir Ali will back him up in the fast-bowling department.
Ashar Zaidi, recently hospitalised suffering from serious heart and kidney problems, has been replaced in the team by allrounder Fayyaz Ahmed. Batsmen Raheel Majeed, Afaq Rahim, Umair Khan, experienced hands Bazid Khan and Naved Ashraf, and youngsters Usman Saeed and Umar Amin complete a very potent squad. Wicketkeeper Naeem Anjum and slow left-armer Imad Wasim, the Pakistan Under-19 captain until recently, will hope to catch the selectors’ eye during the tournament.
In Younis’ absence, NWFP will be led by fast bowler Umar Gul. Also in the team are batsman Yasir Hameed, legspinner Yasir Shah and emerging left-arm fast bowler Junaid Khan.
Like last season, Baluchistan includes only a handful of local players. Misbah-ul-Haq, the Test middle-order batsman, borrowed from Faisalabad, will captain the side.
Punjab team, who were placed fourth last season, will play their first game on October 31, led by Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik. Mohammad Yousuf, Nasir Jamshed, Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Mansoor Amjad, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal and Wahab Riaz make up Punjab’s star line-up.
When the Pentangular was introduced in to Pakistan’s domestic first-class circuit back in 1973-74, it was a five-team competition. When six teams competed in 1974-75 and a total of eight in 1976-77, it still continued to be known as the Pentangular.
It was played off and on through the years and following a ten-year gap since 1995, it was revived in 2005-06 and the new season will be its fourth consecutive one.
While Baluchistan, NWFP and the Federal Areas appeared as separate entities in a Pentangular Cup competition for the first time in 2007-08, Punjab and Sind had played a few seasons in the past.
In the 2007-08 Pentangular Cup championship, which was played only in February-March earlier this year, the PCB had included what they believed were the 75 top players of the country in the five teams. Then, added to that roster, were names of 25 further players who were considered ‘promising young’ cricketers. This time round, for the time being at least, each team comprises 15 players only, in addition to two standbys.