A movement long in the making | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 22, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:05 AM, October 22, 2019

A movement long in the making

Many may wonder why around 50 Bangladeshi cricketers -- including the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah Riyad -- have suddenly chosen to boycott cricketing activities yesterday unless an 11-point list of demands was not met by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). 

The answer is that it is anything but sudden. The simmering discontent started six years ago in 2013 when the BCB first introduced a players-by-choice system in the Dhaka Premier League with a salary cap based on gradings. The board had scrapped the traditional players’ transfer system through which the cricketers could choose their own clubs and also negotiate their salaries.

BCB President Nazmul Hassan had assured the players that the players-by-choice system would take place only for one season and that the traditional players’ draft would return from the following season. 

Six years have gone by but the BCB have persisted with the system that takes the power out of the players’ hands and gives it to the clubs. Cricketers of the country kept fuming over the broken promise but remained silent for various reasons, until yesterday.

Apart from Hassan, there is a board director -- IH Mallick -- who has been known to wield a lot of influence in the BCB with the president’s blessing. Mallick’s umbrella seems to cover all matters, be it BCB’s management, financial, organising, policy-making issues and even in team selection -- name the issue and he is there to influence it.

Known as the all-in-one of the BCB, it is widely known that even a leaf will not stir without his consent as he became the undisputed figure of Bangladesh cricket who however does not come in front of the scene often.

Among the 11 demands from the cricketers, the first was a demand for proper respect from the board that they do not get and although they were reluctant to name anyone, the reality is that it is the fear of this powerful director, who has the power to destroy the career of a cricketer, that has kept the cricketers silent.

Among many instances there was one incident where Mallick held the hand of a current national cricketer who has tattoos on his arm and said in front of many journalists: “You haven’t scored as many runs as the tattoos you have painted on your arms.” It left the cricketer shocked that he was humiliated in front of so many people.

The fire was finally ignited among the cricketers when the BCB president announced that, unlike previous editions, the upcoming seventh edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) would be held without the involvement of franchises after BCB failed to resolve conflicts with the franchises.

It came as a huge blow for the cricketers who were benefited financially through the franchise-based tournament. There were rumours that top BCB officials were displeased at Shakib’s move to Rangpur Riders from Dhaka Dynamites without telling the officials. 

According to sources close to developments, players started to discuss on what should be done after BCB’s decision to scrap the franchise system last month and they eventually decided to go on a strike on October 16, which was postponed to yesterday’s players’ press conference at the Academy Ground in Mirpur.

Interestingly, Mallick -- it was learned -- got to know of the cricketers’ initiative on Sunday night and called a few cricketers to ask whether they had any action planned, but the cricketers were united in their secrecy and denied knowledge of any such plans.

However, news spread that the cricketers were going to hold a press conference yesterday to announce their demands and a worried Mallick once again started to call the cricketers, but knowing that they may be influenced or even threatened to call of their plan, the players decided to switch their phones off.

Mallick even managed to send someone with a phone to talk with cricketers, who gathered at the gymnasium before heading to the press conference, but the players refused to talk to him and eventually staged one of the most dramatic incidents in Bangladesh cricket.

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