The whole nation went into frustration after a nail-biting defeat against India in the final match of the 18th edition of Asia Cup held at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 28. However the mass cricket fans of the country were satisfied to see the efforts of Team Bangladesh. The spirit and strength that the Tigers displayed on the field had brought huge appreciation for them from the cricket lovers all around the world. Tigers’ impressive performance, despite the absence of their two most important players due to injury and the pressure of playing consecutive matches in an unusual hot weather, was really praiseworthy. But, while the team performance made the nation proud, some decisions, which were taken outside the field, created serious debates in Bangladesh’s cricket arena. Sudden inclusion of two batsmen in the middle of the tournament and inefficient injury management system of the team had unveiled some unpleasant truths about the overall attitude and efficiency of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to handle Bangladesh cricket.
Well, ahead of the Asia cup, alike four other major teams’ captain, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza also said that they are taking the tournament as a process of building a team for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. So, it was more important for Bangladesh to examine the potentials of a few players to face tough challenges in big tourneys owing to the fact that the team had several spots still unsettled. As Bangladesh could not become champion despite playing the last two finals of Asia Cup and the team had a determination to triumph the glory, it was expected that Tigers will take part in the contest with a set of players they can count on. But during the tournament, it seemed that the selectors did not have faith on the young players. It is true that at the group stage of the championship the newcomers could not fulfill their expectations but that certainly did not make them bad players overnight. By asking two players to join the team, who were dropped for their poor performance in the past and did nothing special in the domestic level, and including them in playing eleven, selectors sent a negative message to other players who were in the squad but not picked in the playing eleven. Moreover, it also created immense pressure on the players who were not performing well.
This sort of peculiar and uncertain selection disrupts the rhythm of pace bowlers in most of the cases. Domestic cricket is not played in the green wicket. Moreover, in all our home series we prepare spin-friendly wicket to ‘welcome’ the foreign teams and play with a single pacer in the first eleven. Even then we expect that our pace bowlers will deliver excellent performance not only in the home soil but also in the series abroad. And consequently when the team management gets frustrating service from the quick bowlers, they rule them out of the team. According to Bangladesh’s fast-bowling coach Courtney Walsh, this tendency to drop a pace bowler after one bad series has hampered their overall progress. Though the performances of fast bowlers remain acceptable in shorter format, the situation has worsened in the longer version. Our pacers have struggled outside the subcontinent, where they have had to bear the bulk of the bowling workload. From New Zealand, they had returned with a combined average of 63.54. In a quick bowlers’ friendly condition in South Africa, together they had an average of 81.11. In a similar sort of condition in West Indies, our fast bowlers bowled with an average of 36.62, but this figure must be viewed against the host seamers’ average of 11.31. Walsh opined that, our fast bowlers have not been given that much opportunity to play consistently. Some of the youngsters we have need to get a good run. You cannot select them to perform in just one or two matches and then drop them. They can have good and bad matches. You cannot realize one’s talent through one or two matches. It is not going to help the youngsters.
This tendency of picking new players and throwing them out after one or two matches on a regular basis has been going on for a long period of time. The recent edition of Asia Cup only uncovered that harsh practice. After the inclusion of Imrul and Soumya, team management said that they need experienced players in big tournaments like Asia cup but the same team management supported selectors’ decision when they ignored these players. Another interesting fact is that, after recalling two players in Asia Cup squad, both selector Habibul Bashar and skipper Mashrafe stated that they were not aware of the decision. This sudden inclusion of these two players is the latest incident of inconsistency in the long list of interferences in the selection process of the national team where the selectors’ opinions are often bypassed. There is an allegation that some high officials of BCB often try to influence the selection process and even the BCB president Nazmul Hasan Papon is quite notorious for his interferences! Both the selectors Minhajul Abedin Nannu and Habibul Bashar had to suffer a lot when they were players because of the irrational decisions of the selectors. But when they have become selectors, despite being the former cricketers of high stature, these two have failed to show their character when their decisions were intervened illegally.
Bangladesh made enviable progress in international cricket over the last couple of years mainly due to extraordinary performance of some top players. Sad but harsh reality is that Bangladesh players become matured after playing series of international cricket, but their experience in domestic cricket hardly helps them to cope with the temperament of international cricket. Bangladesh’s current group of senior players had gone through this phase before they established themselves in the international cricket. Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudllah made their international debut in 2005-06 seasons. But it took them three to four years before they finally could prove them. While the cricketers of other countries can develop their skill and temperament by facing the crunch situation in domestic cricket, our infrastructure doesn’t provide any such opportunity to our players.
Weak domestic infrastructure makes the growth of our cricket uncertain. Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis (CCDM) and BCB have made domestic league almost a farce with so many controversies and biased decisions to favour certain clubs like Abahani Limited. Irregular schedule, biased umpiring and unsporting pitches have rendered Bangladesh’s domestic cricket’s competition meaningless. Poor and biased umpiring influenced results of many matches which ultimately changed the course of championship battle. Some controversial umpires were made responsible to conduct the important matches of favoured teams and they continued to take biased decisions. The agitated teams repeatedly complaint against it, but did not get any solution. That’s why two bowlers protested this partial decision in a strange way and BCB ultimately banned them - one for 10 years who deliberately conceded 92 runs off four balls and another for conceding 69 runs off seven balls. Their club officials said that they found no other way to lodge their protests against irregularities, mostly involving biased umpiring and misuse of the power by match officials. The board also punished the umpires by banning them to operate any match under CCDM for six months. But there is no big match in these six months. Print and electronic media are regularly publishing reports about such irregularities with credible evidences but BCB seems reluctant to pay any heed to these problems.Moreover players’ injury management is an area which has become a serious problem for Bangladesh’s cricket and BCB has failed to address the issue. Following their wish team physio thinks about short-term solution and players need to play with injury to meet the demand of the team which ultimately puts their career in jeopardy. Shakib Al Hasan is the latest example in this regard. His instance shows that how a player’s physical fitness turns into a secondary issue following the short-term prescription of the top BCB men. Bangladesh Cricket Board is supposed to deal with such situation professionally. But in case of Shakib, BCB president publicly urged him to play in the Asia Cup, despite knowing about the probable consequences. Besides Shakib, Mashrafe, Mushfiqur and Mustafizur have also played with their injuries. Now the question is - how can team physio Thihan Chandramohan allow this nonsense act?
Most of these irregularities are happening as a result of shortage of quality performers. Thus the team management finds no alternative way other than using these injured senior players. Though BCB has taken some praiseworthy initiatives like arranging BCB Academy Cup and some other tournaments to find fresh talents, no initiative will get success unless they can develop a competitive and better-facilitated domestic cricket infrastructure.