This week's "Beyond the Boundary" discusses the upcoming Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup and the importance these six days have after a domestic season that has been underwhelming for the most part.
by Saaib Uppal (25th March, 2013)
As the national players return from a two month tour of South Africa, Pakistan fans are met with the news that tomorrow brings yet another fixture in the domestic calendar - the Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup. Now, before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as yet another flop by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), give it a chance because it might just be the injection that this domestic season needed to get the fans in the stands.
It’s all the way back on October 3rd that the inaugural President’s Trophy began across the country. The PCB had just overhauled the domestic system by separating the regional sides from the corporate ones, who started the season off. While it wasn’t being televised and the players and umpires seemed to be the only ones in the stadium, the first-class matches were producing results rather than boring draws, which would be of no help. Of course, nothing can go smoothly in Pakistan cricket so the PCB decided to insert the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup into the schedule. Unable to find an appropriate window before the tour of India, the final of the President’s Trophy was pushed back until the National team returned. There was about a 6 week break between the last round of the President’s Trophy and the final, which Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited won.
The aforementioned Faysal Bank T-20 Cup interrupting the domestic schedule was just a hint of the failure to come, however. We all remember the farce with the Big Bash League, with whom the PCB issued No Objection Certificates (NCOs) for Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, and Shahid Afridi. They would then pull a u-turn and deny permission for the trio so that they would play in the T-20 Cup. After Cricket Australia’s request, another u-turn was made and the three players were allowed to take part. This further led to Shahid Afridi choosing to stay in Pakistan, Umar Akmal’s contract being cut, and Saeed Ajmal being the lone participant. The tournament was further doomed before it began after the PCB shifted the venues from Karachi to Lahore due the volatile situation. Matches were spread across three different venues and only the ones being played at the Gaddafi Stadium were broadcast. All matches were shifted to the daytime to counter the dew and insect factors. A tournament that was one of the longest running T20 competitions in the world and had the fans flocking to the stadiums fell to the incompetence of the PCB and left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. As it began, the ending was more about off the field discussions rather than the action on it, as Lahore Lions’ winning captain Mohammad Hafeez was named Player of the Match and repeatedly asked about defeating the team he had left behind, the Faisalabad Wolves.
The next two tournaments (the revamped Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Faysal Bank One Day Cup) were both an afterthought as the National team toured South Africa for their Tests, T20Is, and ODIs. Karachi Blues won the former and the Zebras from the same city shared the trophy of the latter with the Lahore Lions after the final was washed out. Only 8.5 overs were possible in the Faysal Bank One Day Cup final for which, of course and perhaps appropriately, no reserve day was planned.
The above reads for a very sad story, and we didn’t even touch on the worst blunder by the PCB - the hyped up, secretive, and in the end postponed Pakistan Super League! Perhaps we've embarrassed the PCB enough, however, and also given you too many bad memories of this season, so we’ll move on to the current tournament. The third edition of the Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup comes around and perhaps just in time.
Pakistan fans have been subjected to nearly six months of non-stop domestic cricket. If quantity is what you’re after, you got it. But has it all been of quality? Perhaps in moments but for the most part, it’s been rushed, disorganized, and domestic cricket for the sake of domestic cricket. The domestic calendar needs an injection of fast paced, well attended, and high quality cricket. That seems to be the exact description of this upcoming tournament. The top 8 regional teams from the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup are invited and are divided into teams of two. The group members will play each other over a four-day span. Three matches a day, all at the Gaddafi Stadium, and thankfully will all be broadcast in timings that are welcoming to fans. The fifth day will be for the two semi-finals and than the final will be held on Sunday. 15 matches in 6 days with the knockouts held on the weekend is as about a “quality over quantity” tournament as you can plan.
In terms of the cricket on the field, it’s promised to be entertaining with the nation’s top stars taking part. Lahore Lions (the winners of the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup) are early favorites with the amount of international experience in their squad. Sialkot Stallions will be looking to defend their Super Eight T-20 Cup title though after sweeping both T-20 domestic tournaments in the prior year. Constant runners-ups Karachi Dolphins and past T-20 tournament champions in the Faisalabad Wolves and Rawalpindi Rams will also make their presence known in these six days. As in the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup, the teams that can surprise everyone are the Bahawalpur Stags who in their debut appearance won 5 out of 6 games before losing in the semi-final to Lahore. As always in T-20 cricket, you can never rule out any team and thus the Abbottabad Falcons and Multan Tigers will look to make it known that they aren’t simply making up the numbers. We certainly hope they aren’t, because as we’ve seen this domestic season, quantity certainly doesn’t equal quality.