Infrastructures Across The Country

Tears of Rajshahi

Anwar Ali

The biggest disappointment for Rajshahi in its sporting history is the north-Bengal headquarters' not getting a deserved Test venue despite having all the facilities.

It looked certain that Rajshahi would become the third Test venue in the country when Bangladesh earned the Test status five years ago. Even a government announcement to fulfil this dream never came true.

Not only that. Much to the frustration of the sports lovers, the hope of Rajshahi was hijacked by Bogra, which turned out to be the blue-eyed boy of country's sports authority.

While Bogra is all set to get recognition as an international cricket venue, Rajshahi, with the tradition and history of hosting many foreign teams in its heydays, has taken the backseat.

Deprived time and again, the Rajshahiites now fear that they would never host another international match in near future.

Before Bangladesh got the nod from ICC as a Test nation, Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi were the three cities presented to the cricket's world governing body as probable international venues. All Rajshahi lacked was standard accommodation and local organisers made sure they will wipe out the last hurdle.

There is sound reasoning why Rajshahi should become a Test venue. The infrastructure is already there at the divisional and the district stadiums with standard pitches, outfields, dressing rooms, commentary boxes and media facilities. There are enough practice grounds in the city apart from indoor practice facilities, a swimming pool adjacent to the district stadium and newly build floodlights at the divisional stadium.

Quality accommodation is also no longer an obstacle as a number of a modern hotels have been built here recently.

The state-of-the-art Rajshahi Divisional Stadium is all set to host an international cricket match. But much to the dismay of the locals, the cricket bosses of the country have constantly ignored its existence, giving priority to other places

In 2001, the board had decided to give a Tk 5-crore loan to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation to upgrade the Parjatan Motel. The amount was very insignificant considering the investment to bring Bogra to limelight but the project has been shelved for long. Even individual interest to build international standard accommodation in Rajshahi was discouraged. At the same time, the authority invested in Bogra and Chittagong for the same purpose.

Rajshahi has a long history in international cricket and the first unofficial Test on Bangladesh soil, between the Northern Zone and visiting MCC, began here on December 31 1976. Tours continued with MCC later visiting four times and Sri Lanka in 1979, followed by West Indies A, England A and Australian Commonwealth team. Accommodation never seemed a problem during those days and Rajshahi was all set to host its first Test when Zimbabwe toured in 2001. Not only the ICC inspection team was satisfied but also the then national coach Trevor Chappell spoke highly of facilities in Rajshahi. However, the cricket bosses finally switched away their attention, frustrating the fans. After the Under-19 Cricket World Cup matches in Rajshahi in March 2005, another ICC inspection team commented that very little adjustments were needed to fulfil international demands and make Rajshahi a standard venue.

Not only the authority, Rajshahi also felt betrayed by its own sons as no one kept their promises of remove the last barrier.

Apart from the Test venue issue, Rajshahi has hardly seen any improvement in other sectors.

The development programme of the Zafar Imam Tennis Complex has been neglected. The preliminary works were done after an about Tk 2-crore project was taken in 1994 but the international venue has not been renovated according to the plan.

The Rajshahi Women's Sports Complex, built at a cost of Tk 1.5-crore, has been abandoned for the past four years. The expensive equipment has also been damaged, denying the women athletes of the city from practice facilities. It has virtually become a meeting place for drug addicts. Athletes have complained that it has also been used as staff quarter of a National Sports Council official. Whether this facility would ever come to use or not is a burning question of the athletes now.

The district stadium has been hosting football tournaments and other sport events every year but the VIP gallery needs immediate renovation to avoid a collapse. The sports minister, president of the Bangladesh Football Federation and NSC officials have repeatedly promised to renovate it but no one has showed any interest to implement the promises. Apart from this, Rajshahi has not been chosen as a venue for the National Football League due to the step-motherly attitude of the football federation.

The aforesaid four issues remain Rajshahi's major concern for development of sports. Unless any one listens to the pleas in time, Rajshahi will very soon fade away from the sporting fraternity.

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