The solution to Bangladesh’s woes in test cricket predominantly depends on the reformation of the domestic circuit. Ensuring intense competition in first class cricket is a prerequisite to having the best set of players representing the national side in the most esteemed format of the game.
Currently, National Cricket League (NCL) and Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL) have been arranged annually following similar patterns every year. Should the concerned authority try to improvise the existing concepts – patterns, structures, formations, and so on – with a view to improving the quality of cricket, some unique hypothetical concepts have been envisioned to experiment the domestic structure a little bit for the betterment of Bangladesh cricket.
Currently, the divisional bodies do not have much at stake for their respective teams participating in the NCL. The financial requirements of the players as well as the teams are basically taken care of by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). Consequently, the bodies concerned are reluctant to pay much attention as they are even criticised for arranging camps only a week prior to the start of the flagship first class tournament of BCB.
Here, the stake and participation of the divisional bodies can be increased strategically. The financial demands of the players and the teams can be handed over to the respective bodies. However, since the divisional bodies do not possess many sources of earnings, BCB can back them up with financial support. Here is the important part– the financial support to be provided from BCB can be proportionately linked to the team’s performance in the NCL.
For instance, whether the team is playing in tier one or two, how many players from a divisional side have gone on to represent the zonal team in the franchise-based BCL, the team’s success in the background including how many fresh talents have been introduced through the divisional team’s system, how much improvement has taken place in playing grounds, practice facilities, indoors, gyms, accommodations, and overall infrastructure, etc. can be taken into consideration.
The pitches have been another disappointment in our domestic circuit. In most cases, the games are played in slow and low dry pitches. Such dead pitches do not offer anything to the seamers as spinners bowl loads of overs just for the sake of bowling. Neither type of the bowlers poses any significant threat to the batters’ techniques.
The teams participate in run fests only to see the batters scoring hundreds and double hundreds in unfairly too favourable conditions without much exhibition of patience, application, and character. On the other hand, some of the games are played in semi-prepared pitches where the ball misbehaves so much that even finger spinners without sufficient skills to spin the ball get fifers as games end in two-three days.
However, BCB has emphasised on leaving grass on the pitch only recently in the name of ‘sporting pitches,’ but underneath the grass, the surface remains either dry or semi-prepared. Consequently, if dry, it continues to be a run fest while if semi-prepared, the seamers roll over the batting line-up. As a result, players coming out of these leagues are not getting any better. They live in a misconception of continuous improvement but get exposed while playing international cricket.
It is true that creating a grass bank like Basin Reserve, Wellington or a bouncy track like GABBA, Perth is not feasible considering the weather condition and soil composition of Bangladesh. But creating a pitch with decent carry for the seamers is not impossible at any stretch of imagination. Establishing a home-away round robin fixture and then assigning certain characteristics for each venue can help the players gain different experiences each season.
A couple of pitches with decent bounce, a couple of dust bowls, and a couple of typical subcontinent pitches – batting friendly initially and favourable to spinners later on – can help cover all the basics. Such an ecosystem can help the seamers understand how to exploit bounce and carry when available, the batters realise how to deal with bounce as well as sharp turn, and finally the spinners learn how to actually spin the ball instead of just darting it in.
For improving the competitiveness of the domestic level, overseas players can be allowed to participate in NCL just as the English Cricket Board (ECB) allows foreign players to participate in the County Championship. Obviously, the NCL will not be able to attract the big names of international cricket.
However, if BCB can manage to seize the opportunity to communicate with teams like Australia, England, New Zealand, or South Africa just prior to their international tour to sub-continent, the domestic players of our country, even though for a short while, will get to face the best in the business and have their skills challenged.
Besides, BCB can incorporate the international players of Afghanistan, Ireland, or Nepal as well. Even average players of the best first-class leagues around the world are better than most of our players playing in the NCL. Therefore, having one or at best two overseas players in each team can certainly improve the quality and competition.
BCB can also add a whole team from Afghanistan or Nepal to make the proceedings a little more competitive. Since Afghanistan does not get enough international longer version games, this will help them develop a generation of longer version players. On the other hand, this will help an associate nation like Nepal to enhance their cricketing prowess. Certainly, it will be very exciting for our domestic players to face Sandeep Lamichhane even for a short span of time.
Curators and Umpires
Finally, preparing a generation of curators and umpires is as essential as developing players. Proper coaching, guidance, training as well as a transparent grading system with respectable remuneration can help the process reach that goal. Such a grading system leading them to an opportunity to curate a pitch or officiate a match in an international fixture can definitely motivate them to be better than ever.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).