RAWALPINDI: Defending champions Federal Areas will be joined by the four provincial sides in the Pakistan Cup 2019 one-day tournament, which will be held at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi, from April 2-12.
The opening fixture will be between Punjab and Balochistan, which will be captained by Kamran Akmal and Asad Shafiq, respectively. Mohammad Rizwan-led Federal Areas will open their title defence on Wednesday, 3 April, against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will be captained by Salman Butt.
Sindh is the other side in the tournament, which will be led by former Test fast bowler Umar Gul.
General Manager Domestic Cricket PCB Shafiq Ahmed said that the Pakistan Cup was a great opportunity for players and fans of cricket in Rawalpindi, “The players who do well can come into consideration for a World Cup spot, I also request the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to turn up in big numbers and support a top-class tournament.”
Mughal Steel’s Mohammad Sajid unveiled the tournament logo along with Shafiq Ahmed.
Mohammad Nawaz, who represented Federal Areas in the trophy launch in place of Mohammad Rizwan (who will join the squad on April 3 after his return from UAE where he represented Pakistan in the ODI series against Australia), said that his team was equipped to complete a hat-trick of titles.
“Federal Areas have done very well in the tournament. This time around, we again have a formidable line-up led by our inform captain Mohammad Rizwan, I am confident that our team can win another title,” Nawaz said.
Balochistan captain Asad Shafiq expressed his excitement at the opportunity of leading the Balochistan side, saying his team was well-balanced and had a good combination for the 50-over format.
“We have a very good team, especially for the 50 overs format. The tournament is a big opportunity for all the players to prove their worth at a big stage.” Asad said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain Salman Butt spoke about the pride of leading his side in the tournament.
“It’s an honour to lead the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa team in what is a prestigious tournament. Pakistan Cup is a very competitive event and I am looking forward to gelling-in with my players. We are hoping to give our best and eyeing a win,” he said.
Punjab captain Kamran Akmal backed his squad’s potential of lifting the trophy.
“We have a well-balanced squad with capable batsmen and bowlers, we have a good combination for the tournament, and we really want to perform well for our Punjab team.” Kamran said.
Sindh captain Umar Gul was hopeful of creating history and leading his side to their maiden title.
“I really like the Pakistan Cup, it is one of our leading 50-over competitions. I have good understanding with most of the players and as a captain, as a leader, I have full confidence in my team.”
In the inaugural edition in 2016 Faisalabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had defeated Punjab by five wickets in the final. Ahmed Shehzad, who had represented Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, finished as the leading run-getter with 373 runs (one century and two half-centuries), while Sindh’s Mohammad Amir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Zohaib Khan were the join-leading wicket-takers with 11 wickets apiece.
Federal Areas lifted the silverware in the successive events, held in Rawalpindi in 2017 and Faisalabad in 2018.
In 2017, Mohammad Hafeez of Federal Area topped the batting chart with 362 runs (one century and two half-centuries), while Balochistan’s Aamer Yamin finished as the leading wicket-taker with nine wickets. In 2018, Khurram Manzoor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the most successful batsman with 393 runs (two centuries and a half-century), while Waqas Maqsood of Federal Areas topped the bowling list with 14 wickets.
The five sides for the 2019 tournament have been chosen by the national selection committee, which is headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq. Players who have been playing regular and consistent cricket for the Pakistan cricket team have not been included as part of the selectors’ policy of providing them sufficient rest prior to the tour of England, which will immediately be followed by the all-important ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
With the 15-player squad for the World Cup to be announced after the Pakistan Cup, it provides a final opportunity to the cricketers to stake a claim for a place in the biggest cricket spectacle on the planet.
The tournament carries a total prize money of PRK3.5 million with the winner collecting PKR2 million. The losing finalist will get PKR1 million, while player of the league matches will get PKR25,000 each.
The best batsman, bowler, all-rounder and player of the final will receive PKR100,000 each.
The PCB, as part of its strategy to further give incentives in domestic cricket, has enhanced the match fee of each player from PKR 33,000 to PKR 35,000.