Daily Star Sport organised a roundtable
on cricket on December 20, 2003. The purpose
of the roundtable titled 'Building
a More Competitive Team', first
of its kind by any newspaper in the country,
was to identify various problems that are
proving detrimental for the advancement
of the popular game in the country. It was
an animated four-hour discussion at the
Conference Room of The Daily Star, where
sixteen speakers, who have served or is
serving cricket in different capacities,
shared their wealth of experience. We strongly
feel that by putting their words into writing
it is possible to outline a roadmap that
can take our cricket to a desired standard.
Although Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB)
president Ali Asghar was a notable absentee
in the roundtable, he made up for his non-appearance
with an interview afterwards. We are also
carrying that interview in the supplement.
It's better late than never and we hope
that our effort will set a trend in the
days to come.
is a transcript version of the roundtable:
Anam: Good morning gentlemen. I
welcome you all to this The Daily Star roundtable
on Cricket: Building a more competitive
The daily Star as you know
has a tradition of organising roundtables
on various important national issues and
this is the first time we are actually holding
something on sport.
We did organise events around
the World Cup football and a quiz contest
on World Cup cricket but nothing like this
as an intellectual input to promote cricket
You have a list of invitees
in front of you and you will see that we
tried to include everybody who is playing
some role now and also people who have played
important roles in the past in promoting
cricket in Bangladesh.
As our heading says, "Building
a more competitive team."
Now the purpose of our roundtable
is really not to try and blame people, not
to try and say whose fault has caused this
disaster or that. Our attempt is forward
looking. We want to address the issues and
move ahead. So, basically, I would like
all of you to have a forward looking approach
and say what we can do, not the mistakes
we have paid. Because, you know in Bangladesh
the culture is the play the 'blame game'.
You know, always it is other fellow's fault,
not mine and it doesn't lead anywhere.
Now, we have invited the
president of our Cricket Board Ali Asghar
MP and also we have invited Saber Hossain
Chowdhury, the former president. And I think
it was in the fitness of things that we
have kept two chairs for the two presidents.
The moment they come they would be sitting
there and it is the tradition of The Daily
Star that when we have photographs, the
editor really doesn't adorn the centrepiece.
I would like to do is first of all I would
ask you one question and go around the table
with your answer. The question is: What
is the number one problem you think now
is faced by our cricket. In other words,
to have a competitive Bangladesh cricket
team today, what in your view is the number
Shuvro: The present structure of
Ahmed Chowdhury: Lack of a compact,
competitive, stable and smooth going cricketing
Imran: The standard of teamwork
and coaching has to be improved.
Islam Masud: Need of efficient
people in the leadership.
Hussein Dudhia: Lack of a highly
qualified pool of modern coaches.
Anam: Lack of efficient management
Rahman Munna: Have to have more
infrastructure, grounds for cricket all
Haq: We must have proper infrastructure.
Nurul Kabir Shaheen: We have to
promote domestic cricket.
Islam: I will go along with the
recommendations of the inquiry committee
after the World Cup debacle. And they identified
the first problem confronting the Bangladesh
cricket, as a matter of fact for any thing
or any organisation, is politicisation.
Islam: There should be unification
in the Board with good, honest and efficient
cricket people and organisers.
Jamil Uddin: Lack of smooth future
planning for a longer period of time in
both domestic as well as international cricket.
Ashraf Hossain Lipu: After gained
Test status, the best possible people around
were not in the driving seat to develop
cricket in the country.
Ul Haq Manu: An efficient management
structure is what we are lacking.
Ahmed: Lack of proper training
facilities and real good wickets.
Anam: We are finished. I think
this gives us a good idea of the type of
agenda we can have for the meeting. We have
had 15 comments and if we group them together
we find that they come under mainly three
sets of issues.
The first set of problem
is domestic cricket infrastructure. Then
a second set of problems comes in management,
management set-up, management of the Board
and other things.
The third set of issues
that has come up is policies, planning and
things like that.
And off course Mr. KZ Islam
has mentioned the issue of politicisation.
So may we start off with
domestic cricket and infrastructure?
Islam: Various points have been
mentioned and all of them are very fundamental.
But at the top of everything should be the
implementing body. What we see here in our
country is one person sets up a beautiful
management structure. But when the next
party comes in it removes the whole lot
and starts all over again.
In Bangladesh what are the
success stories? I would say something like
Grameen Bank or BRAC. What is the hallmark
of this continuity of management? You will
find one person has been managing BRAC for
the last 35 years. Same thing happens to
Grameen Bank. And these organisations are
held up as international success stories.
But when we look at our
cricket, I think something has gone wrong
somewhere in between and I feel it has been
because of the very frequent changes of
And that's what I mean as
politicisation. This culture of messing
around with sports has to stop.
If somebody is doing a good
job, regardless of his political culture,
he should be allowed to continue.
Anam: Kamal Bhai, we will have
a more detailed discussion on this as I
think the second set of issues will be the
management. I think we should start with
domestic cricket and the facilities. I think
your point is very well taken. Not only
our cricket is suffering, but the country
is suffering as a whole. So who would like
to be the first guest?
Nurul Kabir Shaheen: I think the
domestic cricket and infrastructure are
not only two very important issues but also
the main issues to be addressed. Where does
our problem lie?
We lack proper grounds or,
what I would like to say, lack infrastructural
development and that's why we are not being
able to play the kind of cricket we want
or develop a continuous cricket culture.
If you look at the grounds outside Dhaka
you will find all of them are standing as
concrete structures. Perhaps Bangladesh
is the only country in the world which has
so many stadiums. You will find at least
one stadium in every district. But what
we cannot do is use them properly. One stadium
is being used for all kinds of sports like
football, cricket, hockey, kabadi and what
not? It is also being used for holding national
So, until we get grounds
exclusively for cricket we cannot build
our domestic structure and prepare the kind
of wickets we need.
Anam: But as far as we know resource
allocation has not been made for the development
of the grounds.
Nurul Kabir: No, allocation has
also been made this year. We are facing
problem only this year, since the Under-19
World Cup is going to take place in our
country. We are setting up five to six venues
permanently for cricket in places like Rajshahi,
Khulna, Chittagong and Bogra. Once the competition
is over, cricket is going to get some venues
Anam: Domestic cricket and infrastructure
both are related and another issue that
has come up is resource allocation. This
resource allocation is one area that we
must look into.
It is unfortunate that the
resource which is allocated to the grounds
is one of the maximum and also one of the
maximum that has been wasted in the past.
Why I am terming it wasted? Because every
time in the last five years, whenever we
play the National Championship we put money
into the ground. We play the game and then
the money vanishes, because soccer or some
other sport takes over. So, what I would
say is that there had been resource allocations
and that had not been taken advantage of.
Cricket is a sport which
requires specific ground. You would probably
play 60 to 70 days cricket in a year on
one such ground and there shouldn't be anything
else. At the same time, you need to have
indoor facilities at those grounds because
rain in this country limits outdoor practice
to five or six months. It is one of the
issues we have been advocating and the good
news is that at the moment the government
is building six new indoor facilities across
the country. It is a great move and will
allow players of all regions to practise
round the year. It will also help us decentralise
But since it is an integrated
and continuous process we must keep it mind
that it requires a lot of fund.
Anam: Do we have it?
Anam: At the moment, we do what
we plan. But this may not be sufficient.
Being a Test-playing nation
this country does not have an exclusive
cricket ground, which is so unfortunate.
I am afraid that if it were spelled out
our Test status would be in question. You
cannot be a Test-playing country
where your national team
cannot go to practice at their will.
Look at any other country,
each of them has a cricket home. Like Lord's,
which identifies the game in England. We
don't have that. You cannot grow without
So, I think the move to
allocate the Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla Stadium
exclusively to cricket is a positive one.
And you will be glad to know that the BCB,
with the help of Cricket Australia, has
had a deal with an Australian consultancy
firm. They are coming up with a master plan
in this regard.
But again implementing a
master plan involves a huge amount of money.
So I encourage the leading business bodies
to come forward and make contribution in
such a large project which will make the
job a lot easier.
Anam: Just to clarify one point,
you mentioned that you prepare pitches and
grounds for cricket and then it goes to
waste. So, has a decision been taken now
to protect those pitches all year round?
Anam: I'm afraid, no. We have laid
seven wickets at the Dhaka Stadium and each
cost us Tk 1,50,000. But every year we need
to repair three wickets after the football
season was over, which cost us Tk 15,000
to make them into shape. It's a waste of
time and money for no good reason in a poverty-ridden
country. So, people have to come forward
and take note of it.
Anam: Okay thank you.
Rahman Munna: I think Mahbub has
talked a lot about facilities but I believe
that without good pitches we can't improve
our cricket. Pitch is the heart of cricket.
So, our effort at the moment is to lay good
and lively pitches like the one in Australia
instead of typically slow sub-continent
Maintenance of the grounds
round the year is the other aspect we are
lacking. Presently we have 33 grounds where
domestic cricket is being played but out
of that only six have been allocated exclusively
for cricket and would be ready before the
Under-19 World Cup. But only making the
grounds is not the main thing but to maintain
them properly and to do that we need funds,
equipment and permanent ground staff.
Being the chairman of the
grounds committee I want to say that we
are working relentlessly to fulfil the standard
ICC requirement in all the grounds. Standard
grounds will only lay the platform for our
boys to get accustomed with the faster pitches
outside the country.
Anam: Thank you. Anybody from this
side who would like to?
Jamil Uddin: I do not dwell into
resource allocation, practice facilities,
indoor facilities since Mahbub and Shafiqur
Rahman have already discussed it at length.
I want to add something with it, which is
decentralisation of cricket activities.
We all know our domestic
cricket over the years centred on the Dhaka
Premier League. Nowadays we are playing
four-day National Cricket League but it
is in an infancy stage. Besides, it has
so far failed to create the necessary rivalry,
excitement and sense of belonging among
the participating six divisions. So, what
I mean by saying true decentralisation of
cricket is that the game should be played
as much in all the divisions as in Dhaka.
For example, a lot of current national players
are coming from Sylhet. But if we look into
the cricketing activities in Sylhet, it
is not as much active as in Dhaka.
I want to add another thing,
which is to follow the example of Mr. KZ
Islam's successful Nirman school concept.
It will help us to start in a small scale
like we can pick ten schools from Dhaka,
six from Chittagong four each from Khulna
and Rajshahi and two each from Sylhet and
Barisal based on their performance in the
domestic school competition. After the scouting
was completed we can provide those selected
schools with proper facilities on condition
that they have their own grounds, good pitches
and a proper coach. That is what we are
planning at this moment and I think it won't
need lot of money. So, if we start from
that point, I think we can build the platform
of getting future cricketers.
Ashraf Hossain Lipu: I'm very happy
to know from Mahbub bhai's words about so
many stadiums are coming up. But I want
to know who is going to control it?
Basically, the district
sports associations, who control those grounds,
always hamper our national cricket by making
under-prepared wickets for most of the time.
So, a regional cricket association is very
important to control those district sports
associations if you really want to improve
the structure all over the country. Otherwise,
I'm afraid we will not be successful.
Secondly, we have seen on
so many occasions that commitments made
by governments are being broken. There were
commitments in that past that the Bangabandhu
National Stadium would be given to cricket.
But it did not happen so far. So, I'm confused
whether the six new stadiums would solely
belong to cricket.
Thirdly, we need a proper
cricket calendar and without that one can't
judge how the Board and its various committees
are performing. It's easy to judge the national
team's performance against Australia, India
or Pakistan, but is does not reflect the
total activities of the Board.
As Mahbub bhai mentioned
that cricket is affected by rain for five
months a year, I want to add that the Board
should make sure of an effective drainage
system in those newly build stadiums so
that we do not get embarrassed in front
of the international community like the
time the whole day's play was washed out
for just one short bout of rain at the Bangabandhu
National Stadium during England's tour of
Anam: I want to add something to
Lipu's query about the authority of the
ground. At the moment the NSC is given an
official letter to the Board stating that
these grounds are in the custody of BCB.
But unfortunately I don't know what will
happen in the future whether the notice
will be reverted with the change of the
Haq: I feel that a domestic calendar
is very important. You can have a good calendar
but it is equally important to implement
it. But if I'm not mistaken the only venue
for the national cricket last year was the
Fatullah Stadium. So, when the calendar
is being made we must ensure a lot of grounds
to play the domestic cricket and is not
effected by international events. To implement
the calendar, the Board should bring the
district or divisional levels organisers
under its jurisdiction.
Anam: Please can you explain that
again. You want the district organisers
to come under the central Board.
Anam: I think what Lipu and Mainu
bhai are talking it is a management issue
and the regional association, which should
come under administration in the later part
Anam: So, it will come later and
can we stick to facilities and domestic
cricket. (interruption, former BCB president
Saber Hossain arrives ...)
I would like to welcome
Haq: We don't need a stadium actually
for the spectators but what we need is grounds
for players to begin with. We need six to
seven permanent cricket fields equipped
with good wickets, practice pitches and
a gym and if possible a swimming pool.
Anam: Okay. Now, I'm told that
this year you really did not have a good
domestic cricket tournament. Am I right?
Anam: I think the publication was
not right because we organised the national
championship sponsored by Emirates which
is participated by 64 districts and now
we are holding the national league and that
will be followed by the Dhaka leagues.
Islam: When I was president my
concept was to take cricket out of Dhaka.
I saw one way of taking it out of Dhaka
was the school cricket tournament. Although
there were hundred entries from Dhaka and
only ten to twelve from different zones,
I was startled to see sixty per cent of
the time the national schools tournament
was won by teams from outside Dhaka.
Let me take the opportunity
to tell a story of how six members of the
Nirman school team became members of the
victorious Bangladesh ACC Trophy team.
When we started the school
tournament it created enormous enthusiasm
and about twenty to thirty thousand boys
were involved in the competition. Our scouts
used to go round the country and pick up
the talented boys and I used to house them
in Dhaka for six months and provide them
with proper diet, exercise and practice.
Then they started playing in the domestic
league under my company Nirman. They played
in the Second Division and then got promoted
to the First Division and then those schoolboys
got promoted to the Premier Division.
Then people started to tell
me since the team advanced to the Premier
Division we would have to hire players.
But I didn't hear to them. I'm not going
to hire outside players, the schoolboys
must play. So, they continued playing before
they got a big break when the Board asked
me to send eight of my boys to England most
probably under the banner of an under-17
team. I was also delighted to sponsor that
It was an amazing scene
at the airport when they returned. The officials
of big teams like Mohammedan, Abahani and
Brothers Union were waiting to put Tk two
lakhs or three lakhs to their hands. It
was enough to tempt the boys to join various
teams but I'm very pleased to know six of
them later walked into the national team.
Among them Habibul Bashar has turned out
as the most successful Bangladesh cricketer.
Do you know where he comes from? He grew
up in Kushtia. And the other stars Javed
Omar and present skipper Khaled Mahmud are
also from the Nirman team.
I also disagree with the
idea of delaying the national tournaments
because of international events at home.
I think it's funny to delay the whole domestic
cricket for just 20 players. If Dhaka grounds
are occupied for national tournaments then
the tournaments must be held in Rajshahi,
Mymensingh or in other districts.
Now people are talking about
regional cricket associations that we had
in a smaller way in my time. We used to
have the zonal championship covering 22
districts. But now I think 1,000 schools
are playing over forty districts.
Regarding our national team
I want echo the sentiment of great West
Indian Wes Hall. I was sitting beside him
at a dinner in Calcutta in 1983 when he
said to a query of mine "It is very
difficult to get into the West Indies team.
But once you got in it is impossible to
get out." That means you get to be
in place. If you look at the Australian,
Indian, Pakistani and the England teams,
you will find the same players are playing
for several years. But if you look at our
team, in three years we have had an experiment
with sixty players. Why this? I mean if
a player fails once or twice, persist with
him, give him more chance.
coming to another micro level problem, which
was raised by the inquiry committee, was
the use of bowling machine. In international
cricket bowling is done at a speed of 140-plus
per hour. And our bowlers do not bowl more
than 130kph. So, there is a need for tremendous
practice with bowling machines. And I believe
we have a bowling machine, which is out
of order. We should have a dozen bowling
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