The PJL is the brainchild of PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, who is looking to exploit the commercial market interest in spending on cricket. The six franchises will be sold through a bidding process, and the team names will be based on major hubs in the country, albeit different from ones already established in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The PCB is aiming to pick players in the 15-19 age group through a draft system, involving both locals as well as overseas players. While these age-group players have never been involved in a league of such a big scale, the PCB has enforced PSL teams to pick up two budding cricketers in their squad, including one in the playing XI.
Cricket at the junior level in Pakistan has mostly been structured, featuring different levels between the Under-15 and Under-19 groups. Historically, the young cricketers have been nurtured through longer-format games, playing two-or-three-day matches alongside one-dayers.
To make the league more commercially viable and generate interest, the PCB has crafted the model of bringing in legends of the game as mentors and coaches. In addition to their roles as team mentors, the PCB said that the four household names will also serve as event ambassadors, using their knowledge and influence to promote and publicise the league.
Afridi, the former Pakistan captain, is one of the most popular figures in the country despite retiring from international cricket in 2018. He, however, has continued to play and invest in franchise cricket.
“I am a big advocate of investing in the future,” Afridi said. “If T20 cricket is a vehicle to promote and develop cricket, and identify young talent, then we need to create opportunities and come up with novel ideas to unearth hidden talent, and ensure their skills and performances are duly noticed and subsequently rewarded.
“Working as mentor of a side comprising teenagers will be a new experience for me. I am thoroughly excited and looking forward to playing my part in helping these energetic and skillful cricketers achieve the zenith of glory. I have no doubts with the abundance of talent we have, this tournament will be able to identify, at least, half a dozen cricketers who can be nurtured and developed into star cricketers, who can then go on to shoulder the expectations and hopes of millions of cricket fans and followers.”
Sammy, the former West Indies captain, has been one of the key figures of the PSL, and is among the most popular names in Pakistan for his contribution in reviving international cricket in the country. He has been one of the more recognisable overseas faces and was awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan and Sitara-i-Pakistan in recognition of his contribution to cricket in the country.
“I am pleased to have been awarded with the opportunity to be involved in the inaugural Pakistan Junior League. I am fully behind the concept and believe it will assist in identifying and fast-tracking outstanding cricketers,” he said.
“I have been part of the Pakistan cricket system since 2016 and am a witness to some great local talent that has blown me away. I now look forward to working more closely with the teenagers, pass on my knowledge to them and help them fulfil their dreams of becoming international cricketers.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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