The month’s break from international cricket that started after Bangladesh and Afghanistan shared the T20I tri-series trophy on a rain-marred September 24 evening shifted focus to the Bangladesh Cricket Board’s (BCB’s) operation of domestic cricket.
News over the past month had much to do with the BCB’s plans for the ongoing National Cricket League (NCL) -- a first-class tournament -- and the seventh edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), a T20 tournament that the board have decided to run without franchises for the first time.
The board took some initiatives that could be said to be positive for the country’s cricket -- increasing fitness requirements for players wishing to play the NCL and placing emphasis on leg-spinners in both leagues -- but it is still in doubt if enough is being done.
Both are areas for urgent improvement as new Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo was reportedly unhappy with fitness levels while a lack of quality leg-spinners has long been a thorn in the side of Bangladesh cricket.
Before the NCL started, the BCB raised the passing score on beep tests to 11 this season from nine in the last season. While the board initially said that it would be compulsory for players to pass in order to participate, they ended up showing leniency when a few of the more experienced domestic cricketers failed.
As for leg-spin, BCB director Mahbubul Anam said on October 10 that BPL teams -- each of which will be run by the BCB instead of franchises as in previous editions because of a disagreement about the terms ahead of a new four-year cycle of the league -- would have to have one leg-spinner in the playing eleven, who would have to bowl his full four-over quota in every match.
On October 17, BCB President Nazmul Hassan suspended the coaches of Dhaka Division and Rangpur Division for not fielding leg-spinners in their sides in the second round of the NCL, despite being asked by the BCB to do so.
Hassan’s move is a commendable one as it shows that action is finally being taken to improve the lot of leg-spinners in the country with Jubair Hossain -- Bangladesh’s only specialist leg-spinner -- falling by the wayside because of a dearth of first-class games after playing the last of his six Tests for Bangladesh in August 2015.
Meanwhile, the BPL’s leg-spin action plan seems to be lacking in substance and practical workability. A scenario could easily arise that a captain would have to bowl a leg-spinner in the last over when he only has a few runs to save and the leg-spinner in question is not the right man for the job.
Anam’s plan also ignores that there are not enough specialist local leg-spinners -- or those of a quality to rub shoulders with local and foreign elite cricketers -- to populate the seven franchises of the BPL.
All of the initiatives -- the fitness tests, Hassan taking action against the coaches, and BPL’s more whimsical plans -- vary in efficacy but all suffer from a tendency to focus on the immediate and not going in-depth to solve the issues.
The BCB announced the increase in passing beep test levels less than a month before the NCL and therefore many players were hard-pressed to raise their fitness to the required level in that time, leading to the BCB having to backtrack from an initially hard stance. To more realistically raise general fitness standards, the lower leagues will also have to be directed to raise standards and supplied with necessary tools to do so.
Hassan sent a clear message by suspending the two coaches, but once again, to grow new leg-spinners the board president will have to cast his eyes to lower than first-class cricket and encourage the style of bowling in age-level cricket.
The BPL’s plans appear to be the most superficial, geared more at creating the impression that developmental aims are a priority.
With some welcome changes taking place in some spheres, Bangladesh cricket will benefit if the BCB sees the big picture to implement sustainable changes, and not just focus on tournaments when they pop up on the calendar.