Lack of foresight in spotlight | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 21, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:55 AM, February 21, 2021

Lack of foresight in spotlight

Over 20 years after being made part of cricket's most elite format, questions still linger regarding whether Bangladesh has developed a proper Test culture.

Those concerns were voiced vociferously following a humiliating whitewash in a two-match home series against a West Indies team made up of second and third-choice players, leaving their record in 121 Tests standing at 91 losses and just 14 wins.

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Many have pointed out that Bangladesh has not had sufficient opportunities to play Tests while others blame the lack of a cricketing structure and environment and a frail mentality from both cricketers and officials.

Just as concerns about the need to improve Test culture were peaking, another aspect came to the fore as the Bangladesh Cricket Board came to terms with reality and granted Shakib Al Hasan permission to skip the two Tests against Sri Lanka to play in the upcoming edition of the cash-rich Indian Premier League.

The decision by the player roped in by Kolkata Knight Riders for 3.2 crore rupees led to some questioning his patriotism, but one top BCB official interestingly said that the board had to accept Shakib's plea because there was no practical chance of the Tigers making an impact in the ongoing ICC Test Championship, where they are yet to bag a point.

The concept of Test cricket and the need to develop a culture around it have been discussed at length over the years and it is about time that the focus shifts towards a coherent and clear long-term plans and processes instead of occasionally tackling the short-term issues that pop up and calling it a day.

The onus is now on the BCB and how they emphasise the longer-version of the game to encourage and create an urge among players to play Test cricket.

"If you look at Bangladesh's graph in Test cricket over the last ten years, you won't see any consistency. The matches we were able to win against top teams actually came through some individual brilliance. If we want to make Test cricket exciting for the players, we need to prioritise. The board needs to think about what should be done to make this happen. Although it should have been done ten years ago, it's fine if you start now," said former chief selector Faruk Ahmed.

"It is also important that the authorities who are running the board have the patience to form a structure that will give benefits in the long run. However, people within the board at times want overnight success. It is the board's duty to motivate players and make longer-version cricket more exciting and not just blame players by saying they don't want to play longer-version domestic leagues."

Another point to consider is whether the board has thought beyond Shakib and other senior members and adequately prepared a new lot of next generation cricketers for the future. "England, India and Australia value their first-class culture and their players take part in the first-class competitionsas a form of camaraderie. Also, if you play well in first-class competitions, you get value and are rated as a good player. But that is not the case for our first-class cricketers. I am not just only talking about the financial aspect, it is important to empower first-class cricketers to encourage them and grow the urge to be a Test player," prominent local coach and mentor Nazmul Abedin Fahim told The Daily Star.

The likes of India, England, New Zealand, and Australia have accepted the reality of modern-day cricket, such as the need to give players mental breaks and, with that in mind, prepare a bigger pool of cricketers so as not to discourage those who want to skip one or two series.

When Indian skipper and their best performer, Virat Kohli, was granted a leave from the crucial Australia series, the BCCI was adequately prepared to face Australia because of strong back-up options. Eventually, they went on to record a historic series win.

The BCB should have thought of the current scenario and prepared for someone like Shakib -- who has been a long-serving performer for Bangladesh cricket over the years and who is now in mid-thirties -- to start prioritising his views. It perhaps would have been nice if Shakib had decided otherwise, but one cannot fault him for not leaving millions on the table in order to participate in a series that is not shaping up to be a good one for the Tigers.

"He has been by far our best player over the years and we should have kept that in mind. If the board had strategically handled the situation long ago then everyone would have been prepared for this. Shakib might have thought the board would not allow him to play IPL, but he also felt that he had to play in the best league in the world and compete with the best. Money is also a big factor and the emotion of people is not wrong either in this case," Nazmul added.

On the other hand, allowing your best player to compete in the most competitive and lucrative cricket league in the world actually helps the player grow further. Afghanistan players are now reaping the benefits of playing in franchise leagues and gaining experience despite having hardly any cricketing structure in their country.

However, things have been the opposite from Bangladesh's point of view as the board, team management, supporters, and, at times, the players too lost their faith in the existing group of cricketers in the absence of their best performer. "The reason everyone relies on Shakib is simple. It is because he outperforms everyone in all formats and you cannot deny that fact. You need two players to replace him and we haven't found a proper replacement yet. But having said that you also need to give some time to others as well," former Bangladesh batsman and international cricket commentator Athar Ali Khan said.

"This is however not the first time that a player has chosen franchise leagues ahead of their country. It's hard to refuse such a huge amount of money. Yes, national duty comes first but you can't just point a finger at Shakib. You also have to understand every person has their own way of living life."

He prescribed that the board needed to emphasise more on longer-version cricket at the domestic level by involving age-level cricketers. "I think it's important that the board utilises the window provided by the ICC for the IPL, when no international series are scheduled. I want to see a win-win situation for both BCB and Shakib or even Mustafizur Rahman. We need to figure out how we can allow our more players to play in the IPL or other leagues as well as play for the national team," Athar added.

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