First-class cricket gets least priority again

New AgeJan 28,2020

Bangladesh cricket team players are seen upon their return from Pakistan at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Monday. — BCB photo

Despite Bangladesh’s continuous poor show in Tests, Bangladesh Cricket Board were still ignoring the country’s domestic first-class cricket, sacrificing the four-day matches to accommodate the other fixtures and setting up the national team for more failure in a year studded with Tests.

In the past year, Bangladesh lost all five of their Test matches, four of them by an innings margin against New Zealand and India at foreign turf and losing the other one by a 224-run margin at home against a novice Afghanistan side.

Familiar scenes transpired after those losses, with the country’s media and cricket fans raising hue and cry about the national team’s lack of aptitude in Tests, experts and former cricketers asking the board to arrange more first-class matches and the BCB high ups reassuring that they will put more emphasis on four-day cricket.

But the board ended up doing the complete opposite, as they reduced the number of matches in the forthcoming Bangladesh Cricket League, scheduled to start on January 31, putting Bangladesh’s forthcoming Test series in Pakistan at the risk of following the same dreaded pattern of the past year.

In the previous seasons, four regional teams faced each other twice in a two-league format and played a total of six matches each season, but the 2019-2020 edition will be played in a single league format, meaning each team will play only thrice.

The other first-class domestic competition of the country, National Cricket League, will provide six matches for each side, meaning a local player can play highest nine four-day matches in this calendar year while the national team are likely to play 11 Tests in 2020.

The BCB have defended their move by saying that they had to shorten the BCL to accommodate the tournament in the country’s busy cricket schedule and because they wanted to ensure the national players participation in the coming Dhaka Premier League.

DPL, the fifty-over competition, was previously scheduled to take place in February but the national team will be busy hosting Zimbabwe in a full-fledged series at that time, so the BCB deferred that tournament to April, leaving only a short space for BCL.

Veteran cricket writer and coach Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury criticised the lack of planning from the board. ‘Our cricket is going through a crisis right now. It was wrong planning. Year after year they keep making these mistakes and say that they are learning from their mistakes. But we don’t see any practical example of that,’ Jalal told New Age on Tuesday.

The four BCL squads are currently formed by the BCB officials through a draft, meaning the regional teams can’t form their own side, which hampered the overall competitiveness of the competition.

Jalal pointed out that problem and urged the BCB to give the regional bodies   more autonomy in terms of squad selection.

‘It won’t be competitive if it is centrally controlled. The regional teams need to have the sovereignty to form their own team. This process needs to be made clearer to make the tournament more competitive,’ he added.

Left arm spinner Enamul Haque Jnr, who is set to play for the BCB North Zone in the forthcoming BCL, expressed his disappointment regarding the shortened first-class season, but was hoping to look past it and have a successful BCL season.

‘It would have been better for us, the cricketers, had it been six matches. But there is no use to think about what is not there. Hopefully the players will play these three matches well. If we play to our potential it will be good for Bangladesh cricket,’ Enamul told reporters on Tuesday.

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