“The PCB Management Committee agreed to discontinue the Pakistan Junior League,” a PCB statement said. “However, to ensure there is a pathway for the high-performing teenagers and the country continues to produce talented cricketers across all age gaps, it was agreed to revive junior series on a home and away basis.
“It was also agreed to hold discussions with the HBL Pakistan Super League franchises to include an Under-19 player under their Emerging Categories in the playing line-ups.”
A board financial report meanwhile revealed the staggering losses incurred in staging the inaugural edition. As per the report, the two-week tournament came with expenses of approximately PKR 997 million, while the PCB got an income of only PKR 190 million out of it.
A week before Ramiz was removed from office, he had reportedly signed an MoU with a company to sell them PJL rights in a multi-year deal. Pakistan’s federal government removed Ramiz and his Board from office last week, and revoked the 2019 constitution that the PCB was operating under. Now, a Sethi-led 14-member management committee has been handed full executive powers and been asked to rework processes to meet the requirements of the 2014 version of the PCB constitution.
This new management committee has since opened an internal audit of Ramiz’s 14-month term, with the PJL facing particular scrutiny given the weight of related expenses.
Why did the PCB incurs such high costs over the PJL?
When the PJL was announced, there were ambitious plans to have it based on a franchise model but turnout from bidders failed by some distance to match expectations of the board. That forced the PCB to bear the costs of putting together and running the teams itself, and later the title sponsorship and other commercial tenders also failed to bring in lucrative deals.
Despite the lack of interest in the market, the PCB under Ramiz decided to go ahead with the league, calling it a strategic decision. ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB’s commercial committee was reluctant to approve the expenses but the Board of Governors had given approval.
What were the major expenses?
While cricket remains the most popular sport in the country, realistically only the national set-up or the well-established PSL fetch lucrative sponsorship deals. For the PJL, the response to title sponsorships rights and digital streaming rights was lukewarm at best, far lower than expectations Ramiz had: four companies came forward for the title sponsorship rights and one broadcaster for the digital rights, though in both cases the bids were below expectations. For the TV production, the PCB spent PKR 286 million and failed to close a lucrative broadcast deal, ending up partnering with PTV, the state-owned broadcaster.
Additionally, some of the match fees given out at the PJL – to “elite” players – were higher than what a senior Pakistan player would get for a T20I. The league had six teams featuring a mix of 15 local and overseas players between the ages of 15 and 19, picked through a draft process and classified under three categories – four elite players with a salary of USD 16,000, five premier players (USD 12,000) and six X-factor players (USD 6000).
The PCB also roped in big names like Shahid Afridi, Javed Miandad, Daren Sammy, Colin Munro, Imran Tahir, Vivian Richards and Shoaib Malik as mentors for each team.
Did Pakistan already have a junior cricket system in place?
Ramiz’s rationale was that the league would identify and nurture talent, and close the gap between quality at the Under-19 level and the senior level.
Pakistan already had a pathway in place for young cricketers, though, structured from the Under-15 to the Under-19 level. Historically, their junior players were only exposed to one-day and three-day formats, with a batch graduating to represent the country at the Under-19 World Cup every two years. Players like Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and Shaheen Afridi have come up through the age-group ranks.
Additionally, every year PSL teams picked two emerging players from the Under-19 circuit and were required to play one of them in the XI.
How does the PJL bill compare to other domestic tournaments’?
PKR 1 billion was the total domestic expenditure in 2017, the same year Pakistan won their last global tournament, the Champions Trophy.
This year, the PCB’s six domestic associations spent just over PKR 1.5 billion on the full season, across all formats and levels.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent