While the country’s cricket lovers devour every single update on the men’s national team, Bangladesh women’s team opener Sharmin Akhter finished her fitness training under the radar during a break from the Dhaka Women’s Premier Cricket League at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Since there is not much glitz and glamour in women’s cricket in Bangladesh, supporters and even sponsors alike are more eager to hear news of the men’s team ahead of the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup in the United Kingdom.
However, a determined Sharmin remained focused on improving her skills and fitness ahead of the league’s next match for her side, Mohammedan Sporting Club.
A keen follower of the men’s team herself, Sharmin is hopeful for the Tigers to reach the knockout stage of the quadrennial mega event this time around.
“I think this is the best possible Bangladesh team ever in the World Cup as we have a mixture of both youth and experience. We have quite a few senior players who have the ability to change the course of the game and I believe that Bangladesh can reach the knockout stage this time,” Sharmin told The Daily Star yesterday.
The right handed opener has participated in the last three ICC World T20 tournaments, however, she still dreams of playing in the fifty over World Cup, which will take place in 2021 in New Zealand.
“Although I played three T20 World Cups, as a player the longer the format the more you enjoy the game and obviously, I dream to play the fifty over format. I always watched World Cup matches from my childhood and since then, I have dreamt of playing at the World Cup someday,” she said.
Returning to the topic of commercial viability of women’s cricket in Bangladesh, it is still far behind in comparison to the men’s structure for obvious reasons. Although the Bangladesh women’s team’s Asia Cup triumph last year did raise hopes for a drastic change in women’s cricket, unfortunately the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) was unable to cash in and create more interest among fans and sponsors.
According to the BCB’s development manager of the women’s cricket wing, Nazmul Abedin, exposure to the media in addition to good performances on the field could provide the push women’s cricket in Bangladesh needs.
“First of all, it’s the visibility which is two types. First is to let people know that our girls are playing and the other one is the success. For example, the success in the Asia Cup was a big visibility but when it comes to domestic cricket there is hardly any interest. The Premier league is going on where the scorecards are provided in the BCB’s website but for the men’s cricket you are able to get all the updates even in the international websites,” Nazmul explained.
According to Nazmul, who is mentor to Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and many other Bangladesh stars, it is the lack of vision rather than a lack of attention from sponsors which is one of the biggest drawbacks of women’s cricket in the country.
“When it comes to attracting sponsors in women’s cricket, it is more because of a lack of vision from us rather than the lack of interest from the sponsors. Suppose women’s cricket is a product which can be sold, maybe it will get less money than the men’s team but still you can still sell that to the sponsors. But I don’t see any interest from anyone. It is also true that not many Test playing nations have developed women’s cricket apart from India, England and one or other two teams,” he said. “We had the opportunity to utilise the Asia Cup success but we slowed down after that. We could have easily brought sponsors even in the domestic circuit as there is the Dhaka league going on without any sponsors and the BCB had to pay for it all. Even if we got 20 per cent sponsors it could have reached the players.”
Despite all the drawbacks though there is still some shred of hope as the parents are now beginning to encourage their daughters to play cricket, something which was unthinkable not too long ago.
Eka Mallick is another aspiring women’s cricketer who dreams to represent Bangladesh at the World Cup someday and earns her family’s bread and butter from the sport. Eka, who idolises Mahmudullah Riyad and currently plays for Keraniganj Cricket Academy in the Women’s Premier league, informed that it is the support from her family which has kept her dreams alive.
“To be honest, I initially didn’t get support from the family but after winning the Asia Cup everyone started to encourage me and were even eager to know my scores. Although I am yet to play for the national team, it is the support from the family which has kept me motivated to chase my dreams,” said Eka.
According to the right hander, the women’s cricket scenario at the club level has changed drastically, however she did press the issue of improving the financial aspect.
“Obviously, the authorities need to have a look at the financial aspects as we only have one tournament throughout the year and we all look forward to it. There are girls of different backgrounds where we all expect to support our family by playing cricket,” continued Eka.