Since 11 November 2000, the day Bangladesh received their test status, the sun has lightened our beloved earth for almost seven and a half thousand times and Bangladesh cricket team have taken the field in white colour on 123 occasions, winning 14, drawing 17 and losing 92.
With a win-loss ratio of 0.152, the lowest among the ten test playing nations including Zimbabwe (Afghanistan and Ireland have not been taken into consideration since they have played too few games for any conclusion to be drawn), Bangladesh had the worst win and loss percentages at 11.38 per cent and 74.80 per cent respectively.
Numbers look a little better over the course of the last five years. Since 2016, Bangladesh have played 30 games winning 7 and losing 21 times. However, while comparing with the others, numbers do not look pretty as Bangladesh are still languishing in the bottom, at the ninth place out of ten to be precise only ahead of Zimbabwe, in terms of the win-loss ratio (0.33), win percentage (23.33 per cent), and loss percentage (70 per cent).
Even though such terrifying numbers demand massive reformation right from the root, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have provided more lip service than any actual implementation. Cricketers, too, have kept themselves within an infinite loop of ‘continuous learning.’ Both stakeholders are indulged in shifting the blame to one another.
While BCB claims that many of the players do not consider test cricket seriously enough, most players have constantly questioned the quality of cricket on show in the domestic arena. The willingness of the cricketers to play test cricket is something not too evident to comment on; however, the flaws in the domestic circuit are too apparent to be missed out.
As for the longer version, Bangladesh’s domestic structure currently has two tournaments – National Cricket League (NCL) and Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL). The former is a divisional eight-team tournament entirely organised and sponsored by the BCB and the latter is a franchise-based four-team zonal tournament.
NCL, historically and even now, is widely mocked as ‘Picnic Cricket.’ Since the BCB pays the players and backs the financial requirements of the teams, the divisional bodies have absolutely nothing to gain or lose in the NCL.
The level of competition and the standard of cricket is far from satisfactory and the bodies concerned with the teams apparently have no interest in improving their game as they hold preparation camps, not even a week prior to the start of the tournament.
It is not only the divisional bodies that show no urgency but also the BCB does not seem to have any long-term planning with NCL. Though the games are played in a double round-robin format, the tournament does not follow a home and away structure.
The pitches are neither rank turners like the ones Bangladesh had in test series against Australia and England, nor bouncy ones with good carry like the ones Bangladesh get while touring overseas, rather, always slow, low and flat.
Knowing the quality of this tournament, the selectors prioritise the players’ performance in Dhaka Premier League (DPL) and Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) over their performance in NCL while choosing the national team for even a test series. While Bangladesh was on the verge of a nightmarish test defeat against Afghanistan, the then skipper Shakib Al Hasan absolutely detested the quality of the NCL when asked about his players’ participation in the first-class domestic league.
“For each and every cricketer, we have to find out their exact issue - is it playing the NCL or not playing the NCL. There could be problems with both. Playing the NCL could be a problem. They get to play such easy bowling attacks that they rack up hundreds and double-hundreds. Some of them have four or five double-centuries, but they find it difficult to score four or five runs in international cricket.”
BCL is not clean either. It is a single round-robin tournament without home-away fixtures. Pitches here are of similar characteristics as those in NCL. However, the competition is comparatively better here since it is a franchise-based tournament and only the better performers of the eight-team-NCL can make it to the four-team-BCL.
Moreover, unlike NCL, the participation of national team players is more regular in BCL. Having said that, BCL possesses no way near the quality or competition owned by other domestic circuits such as the County (England), the Ranji Trophy (India), the Sheffield Shield (Australia) and so on.
Umpiring has been an issue for both tournaments since numerous instances of wrong decisions are regularly reported. BCB, however, is happy considering it to be a mere human error rather than trying to improve the standard of umpiring with proper training and other necessary measures.
The miseries in first-class cricket give a clear idea of how bad the scenarios are at the domestic levels. Apart from the BCB officials, not even the craziest follower of Bangladesh cricket is expected to have many ideas about the second or third division tournaments.
BCB too does not seem to have much planning regarding these root-level leagues as well as district or divisional level clubs and academies even though the future of Bangladesh cricket is expected to come through these facilities. Shakib, during the strike ahead of the series against India in 2019, showed his disappointment saying,
“We all know the sorry state of our first, second and third division cricket. Only focusing on the national team shouldn’t be the main job of the organisers. Places like Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet should have a proper gym, running and indoor facilities.”
Ensuring proper infrastructure, enhanced facilities, end of favouritism and strict monitoring at the root levels are key to success in the long run. In this era of World Test Championship (WTC), it is time for BCB to understand what is required and rectify its mistake with a view to producing the next generation of test cricketers who will not aim at only sustaining in Tier 1, but take us all the way to the WTC title.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).