By Sohail Ali
LAHORE, Oct 18 (APP):After the successful completion of the National T20, the 2021-22 season enters into next phase with the country’s premier cricket tournament – the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy – beginning from 20 October.
Participation in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy has remained the pinnacle for domestic cricketers as the tournament has established and produced red-ball stars who have gone on to wear the golden star. Over the years, the tournament has produced riveting matches, with last year’s final also going down the wire and ending as a tie with Central Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sharing the trophy.
This year, the fans can witness action up-close as the Pakistan Cricket Board will open stands for them across all venues. The entry will be free of cost and the only requirement will be the government-issued Immunisation Certification for Covid-19.
The PCB, as part of its efforts to incentivise and reward top-performing cricketers, has put PKR17million on offer with the champion side grabbing PKR10million and runner-up bagging PKR5million.
The top-performers – player of the tournament, best batter, best bowler and best wicketkeeper – will pocket PKR500,000 each. The player of the final will be awarded PKR50,000.
The first five rounds of the 31-match event to be played by the first XI sides of the six Cricket Associations will be staged at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium, Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium and Multan Cricket Stadium, before the tournament moves to Karachi on 24 November.
In the first round, Iftikhar Ahmed-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will play Nauman Ali’s Northern at the Gaddafi Stadium, Fawad Alam’s Sindh will take on Imran Butt’s Balochistan at Iqbal Stadium and Multan Cricket Stadium will stage the Punjab Derby with Azhar Ali’s Central Punjab locking horns with Mohammad Abbas’ Southern Punjab.
The last five rounds will be played at UBL Sports Complex, SBP Sports Complex and NBP Sports Complex, before the final, a five-day affair, begins at the iconic National Stadium on 25 December.
All the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy action from Pakistan’s home of cricket – the Gaddafi Stadium – will be captured by nine High-Definition cameras and beamed across the globe through PCB’s official YouTube channel. The live-stream schedule for the last five rounds will be shared in due course, while the final will be televised on PTV Sports.
The result-oriented points system introduced last year achieved the aim of inducing attacking and positive mind-set amongst the teams, and the bonus and match points will continue to be allocated based on it.
In the last year’s edition, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – who won five matches, the most by any team – and Central Punjab finished the group stage at the first and second spots with 161 and 137 points.
Southern Punjab finished at third with 129 points, Balochistan and Northern gathered 128 and 123 points from three wins each to end their campaigns at fourth and fifth spots and Sindh, who recorded solitary win, finished last with 87 points.
Balochistan captain Imran Butt said on Monday : “We have not been able to play according to expectations in the last two seasons, but there was a marked improvement in the 2020-21 season from the 2019-20 season and we plan to continue to build on it.
One of the most remarkable aspects of our squad this year is that we have roped in local players from the province after their impressive performances in the CCA tournaments.
Playing alongside experienced cricketers in Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan and Yasir Shah will help them understand the game better and I look forward to having them in our dressing room.
Central Punjab captain Azhar Ali said : “The last season was outstanding for us as our team truly lived-up to the never-say-die spirit and staged what will be remembered as one of the most epic comebacks. I have full confidence that we will play our third final in a row this year and win the prestigious trophy.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain Iftikhar Ahmed said : “Our team is oozing with confidence as we have been able to stretch our last year’s form to this year successfully. We have adapted our cricket to the modern-day requirements and it is paying dividends.
The retention of National T20 title has given our squad a great boost and we all are eager for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy to begin.”
Northern captain Nauman Ali said : “The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is a tournament in which stars are made and it comes with a great opportunity for domestic cricketers to make an impression as it is followed all around the world.
My progression to the national side has been one such example and my message to the team is to make the most of the opportunities and grab them with both hands.
We have a young and dynamic squad which has the potential to turn the match on its head in any situation and I am looking forward to leading them.
Sindh captain Fawad Alam said : “Our last year’s journey did not go as we had planned but we have learned from that campaign. We have established first-class cricketers in our line-up and I am sure this year will be different for us.
The key for success in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy has always been adaptability as the conditions, with the continuous change of weather and venue, alter and with this set of players, I am sure we will surmount all challenges.
Southern Punjab captain Mohammad Abbas said : “It is always good to dominate a campaign right from the start and the Punjab Derby comes up with a good opportunity to make an impression.
Last year, we missed out the qualification by mere eight points, but it was a brilliant learning curve for us and since our team has grown immensely. We may have a young side, but these players have all the potential to make it big.”