Saturday, September 23, 2023

First-class not BCB’s first priority?

Friday’s cancellation of the National Cricket League matches is just the tip of the iceberg in Bangladesh Cricket Board’s (BCB) continuous disregard for the first-class game.
During the first part of the 2011-12 season, the BCB scheduled the NCL into two parts (split by the Eid-ul-Fitr break in mid-November), both of which had domestic international series as well as second-string and other tours interlaced. So when matches against West Indies and Pakistan were held at the same time as the first-class competition, none of the Tigers were available to play the much-needed four-day cricket.
Such arrangements have meant that those who have played all five Test matches this year — Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Shahriar Nafees and Mushfiqur Rahim — have totalled four first-class matches between them. Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain and Nasir Hossain have played four Tests each with the Bagerhat paceman playing a considerably less first-class cricket than the other two.
In fact, Tamim and Rubel haven’t played first-class cricket in Bangladesh for a long time. The left-handed opener’s last NCL game was in November 2007 while Rubel hasn’t played one since December 2008.
Nazimuddin and Mohammad Ashraful are among the Test players to have played more than ten first-class games in 2011, though in the latter’s case it clearly hasn’t worked. But the Chittagong batsman’s persistence in the longer version has paid off after he won a Test cap against Pakistan and impressed. Elias Sunny and Robiul Islam have also played eight and nine first-class matches respectively with one of them, the left-arm spinner, clearly living up to his reputation.
Most of these players have had to fend for themselves and try to sneak in (or out) of first-class games, but if there was a proper schedule under strict guidance in place, none of this would have happened. Nobody can guarantee a leap in a player’s international performance but regular first-class cricket keeps the players honest and good habits in place.
In this regard, the BCB has failed the players and the nation as a whole. By giving higher priority to the more rewarding Dhaka Premier League and the potentially more lucrative Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20 competition, they have provided the players succour without the assurance.
If the same cricketers are found wanting in another Test series, most of them would be dumped, and the money from such tournaments in the future wouldn’t be as forthcoming as it is at present.
The weather conditions in the country is the last resort when it comes to giving excuses. There is no doubt that the Bangladesh cricket season could start from October and end in May but the start and end of the season would be hampered by rain. But instead of working around the problem, what happened this time has exposed those who have the power in the cricket board. The NCL could have been finished at one stretch and then the two other tournaments held, despite either one taking place during an international series.
But the Dhaka clubs wield the invisible hand of power in Bangladesh cricket and they have the final say. If they want the Premier League to take place from December 28 and only take a break for the BPL, the decision is cast in stone.
Whether such a decision hurts the country’s cricket and image, it is up to the BCB to decide and the last time one checked, they too remain unmoved.

-With The Daily Star input

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