The grand corporate boardrooms, lush-green cricket fields and financial affluence does not necessarily guarantee good governance in cricket. However, it is believed that only strong governance can ensure long-term benefit in the modern era.
Good governance establishes a set of rules, practices and processes that not only influence the mechanism for success but also balances the interests of the game’s stakeholders. It is essential for the sustainability of the success.
When that certain set of rules and processes are ineffective, it can have disastrous consequences. That is what we saw in the three days of chaos that followed the country’s leading cricketers’ announcement last Monday that they would boycott cricketing activities until an 11-point demand was met by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB).
If the announcement had not come as a ‘shock’ as said by the BCB high-ups, it must have come as a big surprise for every cricket follower in the country. Soon after the drama unfolded at the BCB’s Academy ground in Mirpur, everyone -- including board high-ups -- agreed on one point: the players’ demands were logical.
Questions were raised about why the players did not place their demands to the board before boycotting cricketing activities. The way they had communicated their grievances, including the dramatic appearance of a barrister as a spokesman, may lead many to say that the leading cricketers set a bad example. The players, who showed a united front, did not follow due process but a major question must be asked: why did they do it?
It could be gleaned from the cricketers’ movement that they actually wanted to show a motion of ‘no confidence’ in two vital organisations -- the BCB and the Cricket Welfare Association of Bangladesh (CWAB). If the proper rules, practices and process had been maintained at CWAB, the players would have gotten a true platform to negotiate their demands. Similarly, if the BCB was functioning properly rather than being under the influence of a few powerful individuals, the chief executive officer could have been the right man for the players.
The extent of the power wielded by the few individuals, rather than BCB as an institution, was in evidence when it was repeatedly proudly uttered that “they [players] have easy access to us”. There seemed to be a complete lack of understanding of the difference between an institution solving problems through a process and an individual doing the same in ad-hoc fashion.
Many cricketers gave the impression that they just wanted to deliver a jolt as everything, from alleged corruption in the lower tiers to mismanagement in top-level tournaments like BPL, was descending into darkness and that they had no intention to harm cricket in the long run.
It is now common that promises made by the BCB are made to be broken. If we examine the cricketers’ demands, we will find that they were mostly related to the revamp of first-class infrastructure. To see how promises have been broken in this sector, we can go back to BCB President Nazmul Hassan’s comments in November 2017.
The formation of regional cricket associations or the decentralisation of cricket has been a long-standing demand, but it has remained unfulfilled for a decade. When Hassan was re-elected in 2017, his immediate reaction was: “Our first job will be to form the regional cricket association and we will try to finalise that in the next six months.”
It is now nearly two years since that promise. Ask them about the progress and they will tell you: “We are working on it, but there is no significant progress.”
Ironically, rather than being decentralized, the concentration of power is apparently shrinking into the pockets of a select few.
When Hassan needed to do the necessary groundwork so that cricketers like Shakib Al Hasan need not cry for the lack of good infrastructure and long-term planning, he has instead been unnecessarily showing more interest to technical issues like who would bat at which position.
It would be dangerous and suicidal for Bangladesh cricket in the long run if cricketers and not institutions are searched for fault lines when it comes to solving systemic problems. We want to echo Shakib’s sentiment that someone with foresight at the helm of Bangladesh cricket is the need of the hour.