Can cricketers survive the lockdown?

Atif Azam

2 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Can cricketers survive the lockdown?

The Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium looks greener without cricket as Bangladesh Cricket Board suspended all forms of cricket in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country on March 19. – BCB Photo

In recent past, former Indian skipper MS Dhoni hogged the spotlight by buying a tractor as he expressed his intention to farm in Ranchi during the lockdown enforced in India due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For Dhoni, it appears to be a means of passing time if not anything else but that is not the case with some of Bangladeshi cricketers playing in the lower tiers as they are forced to switch the profession due to uncertain future.

Some of them have already turned to farming while few have decided to sell masks. Some have also joined different companies to just earn their daily meals.

They are not prominent performers and they do not play in the top league thus their silent career switch went unnoticed by many of the news outlets of the nation. But the fact that they are opting for other professions, paints a grim picture of Bangladesh’s domestic cricket circuit.

Despite playing in the lower tiers, these cricketers managed to make ends meet but everything changed with the arrival of the pandemic. Now, they are making the move as they don’t feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has continued its financial support to the less privileged and insolvent cricketers and sportsmen during the ongoing pandemic.

On the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, BCB handed out financial aid to 1,600 cricketers who play in different cricket leagues under Dhaka Metropolis but do not come under any BCB contract.

The cricketers of Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League and First Division League received Tk 10,000 each while the cricketers of 2nd and 3rd Division Cricket League got Tk 8,000 each.

But considering the current socio-economic context, questions can always be raised whether it is enough or not to run a family for a month with the money provided by BCB.

There are many cricketers who earn their bread and butter through playing lower tier cricket leagues along with playing cricket on hire but the pandemic disrupted all their plans.

They were expecting to earn a substantial amount of money by playing round the year. They felt there would be a lot of opportunity this year as different leagues were scheduled to be held around the country celebrating the birth centenary of Father of The Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Cricketers playing in the lower tier are having sleepless nights and the situation is quite similar for players of Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League also.

The halt may be frustrating for cricketers, cricket lovers and organisers alike but the situation is an unprecedented one, both globally and in Bangladesh. Thus, the steps taken by decision makers are understandable.

However, the question remains whether BCB can afford to play a waiting game and try to assess the situation without attempting a plan for resumption of practice of national cricketers.

The route to resumption in other countries was dependent on their pandemic situations. That is why Germany could resume Bundesliga much earlier than Spain, Italy and England could do the same with their La Liga, Serie A and English Premier League respectively. Argument can be made that government restrictions regarding the sport have not yet been lifted in Bangladesh and it would be a valid point to make. Without a doubt, it is the right move made by the government. But did BCB try to lead the way with convincing arguments to get a green signal to recommence training?

The plan of action should be set with a certain target in mind, since there is no certainty how long the pandemic will dictate lifestyle in Bangladesh.

If for instance, the situation persists for another six months, can BCB afford to wait that long, with domestic cricketers and national stars sitting idle? Three months have already gone by with the sport at a standstill.

Majority of Bangladeshi cricketers are uncertain about their future as they are keeping their fingers crossed about the resumption of Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League, country’s traditional Dhaka-club-based 50-over tournament which has been postponed due to the pandemic.

A Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis (CCDM) official said that they will try to complete the tournament even on a single leg basis if things take a turn for the better.

However, the chances of that happening look slim considering the current state of the pandemic as the crisis is worsening with every passing day in the country. Meanwhile, it appears that national cricketers have turned their focus to family affairs along with core exercises which had been suggested by BCB recently.

For national cricketers, getting to enjoy this break can be considered as a blessing as they remain busy nearly round the year due to national and domestic assignments.

But more than anything else, their financial solvency allows them to breathe free compared to their colleagues who only play domestic cricket and largely depend on DPL as it is considered to be a source of their bread and butter.

So it will be foolish to believe that all is well in every front by watching the social media posts where Soumya Sarkar is found showing his culinary skills or Tamim Iqbal is focusing to strengthen his bonding with his wife and kids or Liton Das trying to learn how to paint.

Some of the national stars are seen gardening and cleaning the house while others were seen passing their time by watching movies and playing games. Though it hardly is the reality for a huge segment of cricketers who are passing sleepless nights thinking about their future considering everything is uncertain for them.

“I think we need to start somewhere because now it has turned into a question of survival. This is a very difficult situation. We cannot do much about it. Sport is suspended all over the world. Nearly everything is at a standstill. It takes some time to complete a cricket tournament. If we remain sensible and if the situation gets better, then DPL should definitely resume. Because our (cricketers) income depends on this tournament,” said a cricketer.

The resumption of DPL can show the way out for other cricket leagues but the way BCB is approaching it at the moment, it does not feel that they are keeping DPL at the top of their priority.

“We cannot risk the lives of our cricketers and we don’t have the infrastructure to resume DPL. For us, resumption of cricket might come in the form of taking part in a bilateral series,” said a BCB official.

It is clearly understandable that people are trying to adapt to the new normal and the quicker BCB understand the better it is for the cricketers as the board is not in place for national cricketers only but for the entire cricket fraternity of the nation.

It will not be without merit to predict that some other cricketers might change their profession in the coming days unless BCB comes up with a plan of action soon.