The 2017-18 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy will put teams through a back-breaking schedule of seven four-day games in just 41 days. That is the total time allocated to the group stage for 16 teams. Just 86 days have been set aside for the entire tournament, with the final to be played on December 16.
The scheduling of Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament was altered twice, before a final decision was made to start on September 26, twelve days later than originally planned. Fifteen venues have been chosen to host the 69 matches. The group stage has been especially compressed, with each team afforded only 13 rest days if their matches last all four days. That is a reduction on an already packed schedule: teams were given 18 and 15 days off in the group stages in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season saw the entire tournament, comprising 67 games, wrapped up in just 72 days. The ‘rest’ days should also be taken with a pinch of salt, as most of them are taken up travelling to various cities.
This year’s scheduling is even tighter, as the tournament has been split into two windows, with the group stage ending on November 5, and the next stage – the Super Eight – starting from November 25. The three-week window between the two dates is being used to play the National T20 Cup, an event which was previously postponed from August.
The scheduling of the National T20 Cup has already created other conflicts, as it clashes with the Bangladesh Premier League and the Global T20 in South Africa, events in which up to 20 Pakistan players are scheduled to take part. The BPL lasts from November 2 to December 10, while the Global T20 begins on November 3, with the final taking place on December 16. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the PCB went ahead with a selection process for the domestic tournament last month with a draft ceremony.
Pakistan’s domestic circuit has been subject to multiple changes, with schedules varying every year for at least a decade. The first-class format, however, remains intact for the second year running, with 16 teams (eight regional and eight departments), but the selection process was tweaked, allowing eight players to be picked through the draft process.