The postponement of the tour of Sri Lanka is a big blow for Bangladesh cricket in terms of returning to international cricket, if not a return to any sort of competitive cricket amid the prolonged coronavirus-induced suspension.
This series was considered a great opportunity for the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to bring cricketers back to the field but ultimately it was postponed following disagreement over a stipulated 14-day isolation protocol to start the tour.
After the postponement, there is much curiosity about whether either or both parties could have been more lenient in their stances. Was it really not possible for Bangladesh to bite the bullet and abide by the 14-day isolation in their hotel rooms, given the scarcity of international cricket on offer? Was it not possible for the Sri Lankan authority to relax their rules while ensuring all other safety measures?
Players and officials think that it would take a long time to recover mentally and physically if the BCB had agreed to the protocol. On the other hand, it is also a concern that this ongoing lengthy break from international cricket will put huge mental pressure on professional cricketers because everything is still in limbo. There is still no certainty about the exact plan for starting domestic cricket, which appears to be the most difficult task for the game's governing body considering the country's coronavirus situation.
Finally, even if BCB is able to bring back domestic cricket, it will take still more time to host international cricket in the country and in that case, Bangladesh would have to wait for the New Zealand trip in March next year.
New Zealand Cricket said in a statement yesterday that Bangladesh are among four international teams confirmed to play in New Zealand over the coming months. NZC Chief Executive David White however said the series against Bangladesh -- during which the Tigers are scheduled to play three ODIs and as many T20Is -- and Australia were yet to receive government approval but he was "confident" they would.
When the teams arrive in New Zealand, they will spend their required 14-days quarantine in Christchurch, where they will be able to train at NZC's high-performance centre in Lincoln University, unlike Sri Lanka's strict restriction of confining players in hotel rooms.
New Zealand has been one of the success stories in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Sri Lanka too has seen similar success with only 13 Covid-19 deaths reported in the country so far, as opposed to 5,219 in Bangladesh. So, according to a BCB official, "Sri Lanka is very rigid with their health protocol", which is the reason they were not even ready to split the two-week quarantine between the two countries.
Apparently, BCB President Nazmul Hassan softened his tone while announcing the postponement of the tour on Monday after a stern response to the Sri Lankans' protocols a few days earlier. The change could have happened because he knows better than anyone how hard it will be to get the Tigers playing international cricket again. If, as now looks likely, Bangladesh do not play international cricket before March next year, the team will have been out of action for more than a year.
These are the times of the "new normal", when health considerations will dictate the new challenges in the coming days, especially when visiting any other countries, so the BCB's response should be prudent in keeping with the times.
While it goes without saying that health is the top priority, the reality is that sports have started to come back to life all over the world with extensive measures. For Bangladesh, it is crucial to be extra cautious in decision-making, perhaps more than other countries, as opportunities to battle on the international stage do not come by as often as it does for other countries.