The Participants

Saber Hossain Chowdhury (Former BCB president)

KZ Islam (Former BCB president)

Shah Nurul Kabir Shaheen (Chairman, Tournament Committee, BCB)

Mahbub Anam (Chairman, Cricket Committee, BCB)

Shafiqur Rahman Munna (Chairman, Grounds Committee, BCB)

Maqbul Hussein Dudhia (CEO, BCB)

Mahmud Ul Haq Manu (Director, BCB)

Aliul Islam (Former Chief Selector, BCB)

Mainul Haq (Former Chief Selector, BCB)

Faruque Ahmed (Chief Selector, BCB)

Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury (Cricket coach)

Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu (Former national captain)

Ziaul Islam Masud (Former national player and umpire)

Utpal Shuvro (Sports Editor, Prothom Alo)

Khandoker Jamil Uddin (Secretary, Development Committee, BCB)

Sarwar Imran (National coach)


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Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Ali Asghar talks to The Daily Star Sport in an exclusive interview



The 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.

Following is a transcript version of the roundtable:

Mahfuz Anam: Good morning gentlemen. I welcome you all to this The Daily Star roundtable on Cricket: Building a more competitive team.

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 in Bangladesh.

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.

What 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 one problem?

Utpal Shuvro: The present structure of domestic cricket.

Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury: Lack of a compact, competitive, stable and smooth going cricketing society.

Sarwar Imran: The standard of teamwork and coaching has to be improved.

Ziaul Islam Masud: Need of efficient people in the leadership.

Maqbul Hussein Dudhia: Lack of a highly qualified pool of modern coaches.

Mahbub Anam: Lack of efficient management structure.

Shafiqur Rahman Munna: Have to have more infrastructure, grounds for cricket all over Bangladesh.

Mainul Haq: We must have proper infrastructure.

Shah Nurul Kabir Shaheen: We have to promote domestic cricket.

KZ 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.

Aliul Islam: There should be unification in the Board with good, honest and efficient cricket people and organisers.

Khandoker Jamil Uddin: Lack of smooth future planning for a longer period of time in both domestic as well as international cricket.

Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu: After gained Test status, the best possible people around were not in the driving seat to develop cricket in the country.

Mahmud Ul Haq Manu: An efficient management structure is what we are lacking.

Faruque Ahmed: Lack of proper training facilities and real good wickets.

Mahfuz 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?

KZ 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 management.

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.

Mahfuz 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?

Shah 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 programmes.

So, until we get grounds exclusively for cricket we cannot build our domestic structure and prepare the kind of wickets we need.

Mahfuz Anam: But as far as we know resource allocation has not been made for the development of the grounds.

Shah 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 permanently.

Mahbub 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 the game.

But since it is an integrated and continuous process we must keep it mind that it requires a lot of fund.

Mahfuz Anam: Do we have it?

Mahbub 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 an identity.

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.

Mahfuz 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?

Mahbub 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.

Mahfuz Anam: Okay thank you.

Shafiqur 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 wickets.

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.

Mahfuz Anam: Thank you. Anybody from this side who would like to?

Khandoker 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.

Gazi 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 Bangladesh.

Mahbub 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 government.

Mainul 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.

Mahfuz Anam: Please can you explain that again. You want the district organisers to come under the central Board.

Mahbub 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 of discussion.

Mahfuz 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 Saber.

Mainul 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.

Mahfuz Anam: Okay. Now, I'm told that this year you really did not have a good domestic cricket tournament. Am I right?

Mahbub 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.

KZ 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 trip.

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.

So, 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 machines.

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