Functional RCAs will be Papon's biggest triumph
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hasan Papon last week celebrated three successful years in office with a Mezban for all stakeholders at the board headquarters in Mirpur.
The BCB boss and his committee deserve to celebrate the achievements in those three years off the field, even more than those on it.
It was not just the men's team that played extraordinary cricket -- winning six home series on the trot after making it to the World Cup quarterfinals down under, scoring their first Test victory of substance in a magnificent series against England that will go down as the best series on Bangladesh soil. The Bangladesh Under-19 team also made it to the Youth World Cup semifinal before going down fighting against eventual winners West Indies. The women's team also made their mark on the international front.
Papon certainly deserves kudos for the transformation of the men's team from being an enigma to a unit that has finally translated its potential into success. And it all started in 2014 when the board, desperate to find a suitable coach for the Tigers after being snubbed by a few high-profile names, took the bold decision to appoint Sri Lankan Chandika Hathurusingha, whose biggest credential was his association with Australian domestic side New South Wales.
At the same time Papon has also decided to split the captaincy and despite injury fears, appointed Mashrafe Bin Mortaza as skipper for shorter formats. The decision worked wonders and the Tigers not only became 2015's second-best team in terms of win percentage in the ODI format but also won enough rating points that year to seal their place in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Papon's struggle off the field was no less challenging. He actually took over the hot seat of Bangladesh's richest sports body when it was going through troubled waters. His predecessor had almost dragged the Tigers to tour Pakistan against the world order and left the fixing-tainted BPL in a state of shambles with the world media also deploring the non-payment issue of the players.
It was also a time when the 'Big Three' were invading the game's ruling body ICC. But despite his limited experience in top-level cricket, the BCB boss guided the ship with aplomb. He not only averted that Pakistan tour with his cricket diplomacy despite threats from Pakistan, but also mended the relationship of the two boards by allowing the women's team to tour Pakistan instead.
He also formed a judicial committee to probe the fixing scandal in the BPL and has also solved the non-payment issues of the players judiciously. He even revived the money-spinning domestic T20 competition after a gap of one year, mending those loopholes in the BPL governing council.
The most telling contribution of Papon is his uncompromising approach to uphold discipline and his decision to punish premier all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for disciplinary breaches in mid-2014 played a big role in creating harmony in the team. Being the CEO of one the big business houses in the country, Papon also tried to restore financial discipline in the board.
Is there anything to be critical of Papon's three odd years in office? Not much. But he must feel that he could have done better on the domestic front; particularly his failure to commit to a set domestic calendar. Besides that, his decision to reorganise the selection committee, which has been doing well, has certainly come as a disappointment for many who believe it may eventually become a recipe for disaster in the long run.
Papon is already winding up his first term in office with a fresh election due next year. He will definitely go for a second term and as part of that campaign he has already promised to fulfil one long-unfulfilled demand -- the formation of the Regional Cricket Association (RCA). The draft RCA has already been endorsed in the board and it will be tabled in the next AGM for approval.
The formation of the RCA, which was a commitment from BCB when it applied for Test status, will open the door for decentralisation of Bangladesh cricket. The idea is that cricket will no longer be solely Dhaka-centric. There are seven regional cricket associations in the draft which means each region will flourish as independent cricket centres equipped with all the necessary infrastructure, grounds, manpower and patrons. It is also the right time for the BCB to realistically launch the RCAs because the board has now got the financial muscle to nurture them.
But to make the RCAs truly functional and more importantly autonomous, the BCB also needs to change its own constitution. As it stands at the moment, if the amended 2012 BCB constitution is followed for the formation of the BCB General Council and also the formation of the Executive Board, the RCA will be more an eyewash than a serious effort in the path to decentralisation.
Without going into the complicated jargon associated with any constitution, what we understand at the moment as laymen is that if the BCB general council is still formed with a set of councillors (members) from divisions, districts, clubs, educational institutions (as defined in the amended 2012 BCB constitution) who are already part of RCAs and have gone through an electoral process, isn't it akin to voters who have elected members of parliament from their constituencies still having to vote for the formation of the cabinet and also a prime minister?
We believe this is a serious threat to continuity of a process and it is up to the board to decide whether it will form the RCA to fulfill a commitment to the ICC or really give it a try to make it truly functional. We want to remind ourselves that our cricket has reached this far mainly because we have always taken the right decision for the greater interest of the game.