Bangladesh cricket — will there be accountability?
I went to Lords to watch our match against Pakistan, hoping that we could repeat our win of 1999 (that too as an ICC Associate Member) in our very first World Cup after failing to qualify in the previous five. Legendary names adorned the Pakistan Team 20 years ago in Northampton – Saeed Anwar, Shaheed Afridi, Ijaj Ahmed, Inzamanul Huq, Moin Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Yunus, Shoaib Akhter, Saqlain Mushtaq and against all odds we won. ICC Full Membership and Test status was secured the following year.
20 years on, Bangladesh is taking part in its sixth World Cup and expectations were that we would qualify for the semifinals after a top-four finish and might even then make it to the final.
Our World Cup dreams and aspirations have however yet again been jolted and sobered by reality. We have now finished our 2019 campaign winning three matches (against the bottom three teams) and losing all five against the top five on the table. On reflection, the wash-out match involving Sri Lanka could well be a point won.
Other than Shakib Al Hasan, who is head and shoulders above all his teammates and one of the great all-rounders of the game (he alone has scored more than a quarter of Bangladesh’s total runs in this World Cup, not to mention the 11 wickets), Mustafizur Rahman proving effective in the death overs and Musfiqur Rahim contributing some runs, this has been a very poor World Cup. Our fielding has been embarrassingly amateurish and is perhaps at an all-time low.
Our fans have been let down and we have not done justice to cricket potential. Coming out of Lords after the game, it was so very painful to see the despair in the faces of our loyal supporters.
Hope is the last to die and we cannot afford to lose hope. The next World Cup in India is in 2023 and we have four years to plan and get things right. There is thus time enough but much to do.
Accountability starts at the top and as we all know, is difficult to establish and yet so very easy to lose. The current leadership of the Bangladesh Cricket Board has effectively been in place for a decade and have been responsible for no fewer than three World Cup campaigns.
They have regrettably not been able to deliver despite having all the support from the government and in particular Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They have had access to massive financial resources and a total and complete free hand in running Bangladesh cricket.
Instead we hear whispering of woeful umpiring standards, outcome of matches at lower tiers in particular being predetermined, domestic cricket not being given the focus and priority. Rumors of a few business houses virtually owning or controlling votes of most the clubs so that elections are a forgone conclusion. Some influential board members have also apparently intertwined their personal and commercial interests with affairs of the board.
Conflict of interest, transparency and governance issues must thus be addressed going forward.
Keeping 2023 in mind, we need to identify and analyse lessons learned — what has worked well over the past six World Cups and what could work better. Critically important is strategising a new nucleus for the team — some of our senior players will understandably not be at their peak four years from now.
We need to have strike bowlers who can pick up wickets in the early overs, a “heavy hitter” batsman for the last 10 overs, a solid opening pair to get our batting going and last but not least, our team must be outstanding in fielding. Right coaches have to be identified to achieve these.
If we are to be evolve into a top-ranking team, we have to look at winning matches away from the home comfort zone and for this a long and hard look at our domestic pitches is called for.
I have always viewed cricket as a platform for national unity and as a medium to help us transition from an independent country to a fortified nation. For Bangladesh, cricket thus cannot be viewed just as another sport and when it comes to interest, it is as national as it gets.
Calls for accountability are not always regarded in the right spirit. In this instance though, at aftermath of our elimination from the World Cup, I am hopeful given that the current president of BCB and a parliamentary colleague of mine, is from the corporate sector wherein when the president and/or his team repeatedly fails to perform, they accept responsibility and resign.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP is a former president of Bangladesh Cricket Board. @saberhc