A darkness within the light | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 07, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 07, 2018

A darkness within the light

Bangladesh cricket is currently going through a phase where it seems like every day is bright and sunny, with all the glamour and attention on the national team and everyone in the country yearning to be a part of the Tigers' set-up.

In fact cricket has carved a place in nearly everyone's heart. It has become an integral source of joy and happiness when the Tigers are successful and in equal parts a source of anger when performances go awry.

Basically, it seems that Bangladesh cricket is going through a honeymoon phase where everything seems on track from the outside when taking into consideration the successes of the national team.

On the other hand, a cricketing nation cannot simply rely on the successes of its national team. It is important to have a strong and rich cricketing culture, with roots planted firmly at the domestic level.

However, despite all the glitz, glamour, money, name and fame that is associated with the national team, there is another part of the same fraternity that is in dire straits and silently crying for help.

Corruption, biased umpiring, match fixing and even buying and selling of points has become a common feature over the past few years in the first, second and third divisions of the Dhaka leagues.

It has escalated to such a state that it is an open secret among players, club officials and even board members -- who remain silent despite knowing everything, allowing the wrongdoings to spread like wildfire.

The lower levels of cricket in the country are often portrayed as a mockery by players and officials and there is a famous saying among them which goes along the lines that cricket in Bangladesh is no more a gentleman's game if you notice what is happening in the Dhaka leagues.

There have even been outbursts by players on social media, where they have posted pictures and videos alleging favouritism during league matches and claiming that a few specific teams are getting illegal support.

Such things have happened in the past, but things now are worse than ever despite widespread coverage by media outlets.

Recently Bengali daily Prothom Alo featured a full-page investigative report over the current situation of the leagues in Dhaka, revealing allegations against a few board directors who own the clubs that have been receiving favours from umpires, match referees, scorers and the league committee.

We may get to know all the views on such issues from national team stalwarts but when it comes to lower level cricketers speaking about such wrongdoings, they prefer to remain silent for the sake of their careers.

The Daily Star spoke to a cricketer -- who understandably requested anonimty -- who was a victim of such favouritism in the just-concluded First Divison league.

According to the player, who is the sole breadwinner in his family, things were completely normal when he started his career in 2006 but the scenario has changed so drastically that he is now considering quitting cricket and finding another job.

"Favouritism has become worse over the last three seasons and my club this season was a victim of that. In a game against Mohammadpur Cricket Club, we scored 30 in just 3 overs. Then I was beaten by a delivery away from my bat and when I was taking guard again, I realised the opposition were celebrating. Immediately the umpire [Shahinur Rashid Shamim] signalled that it had taken an edge," he recalled.

"I was furious and said that it hit my abdominal guard and protested. After my dismissal, club officials realised that we were going to suffer such things for the whole game so they tried to protest and the game was stopped for 20 minutes. We went on to lose that match in which four of our top batsmen were victims of biased umpiring decisions. We faced same situation in another game and since then the morale of the players was broken and consequently our club was relegated."

He also shared another harrowing tale. "In another match, an umpire warned me to not let the ball hit my leg, saying that if it hit my leg then I would be given out. How can I bat in such circumstances?"

The helpless cricketer added that if such things continue then it would be impossible for victims to continue loving the game.

This is just one of the many voices that are crying out for Bangladesh cricket. The list goes on and on without a solution in sight.

The authorities' continued denial of such allegations and consolations that they will look into it are no longer accepted by the victims. Instead, they have a simple plea: save cricket in Bangladesh before it's too late.

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