What has gone on till now regarding the resumption of cricketing activities in Bangladesh is understandable, given context. The halt may be frustrating for cricketers, cricket lovers and organisers alike but the situation is an unprecedented one, both globally and in Bangladesh. However, the question remains whether the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has more time to wait and assess the situation without making moves to secure conditions to help national players train.
Resumption plans in other countries were dependent on their specific Covid-19 situations. That is why Germany could begin earlier than most with Bundesliga before La Liga, Serie A and the English Premier League followed suit. Arguments can be made that government restrictions regarding sport have not been lifted in Bangladesh and without doubt that is the right move but has the cricket board led the way with convincing arguments to get a green signal to commence training at some point?
The idea is to now start with a certain target in mind since there is no certainty how long the pandemic will dictate lifestyles in Bangladesh.
The BCB has not been sitting around and have made plans, if not yet put them into action. A groundwork has been discussed and it was learned that they have already decided on grounds where the players can begin resuming cricket activities. The impact of these discussions will depend on proactiveness in putting plans to action and the decisiveness of those implementing it. Is the BCB itself convinced by the arguments in favour of a restart? They would have to be the ones to convince everyone else that they can put forth conditions for a safe return.
If for instance the situation exists for another six months, can the BCB afford to wait that long, with domestic cricketers and national stars alike be sitting idle? Three months have already gone by with the sport at a standstill. If BCB has to ultimately fight the virus and resume activities, will it not be late to wait for things to change for another four months? Many in the cricket fraternity believe the time has come to start thinking about resumption of national training.
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. That activities can only resume after the country has completely erased the virus may be a notion that does not take into account the reality of the situation here.
Urgency led to other countries to restart competitive sport. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is thinking revenues. Cricket Australia have already had job cuts and although the BCB suggested that revenues were not an issue, given it is not essentially coming from the domestic culture, there are costs involved. Costs in particular to cricketers in the national team and the board's standing among the powerhouses in the cricketing world.
It would be a step too far to immediately chalk up plans for return of domestic cricket but the same cannot be said about national players' training. The break has already seen postponement of series, leading to a loss of a big chunk of their paycheques. Even more costly is the lack of cricketing activities. When they do return, it will be that much harder to get back into the flow of things. Many have already lost four or five Test matches from their careers. Professional activities, bar the education sector, have already resumed in Bangladesh. The mental toll on cricketers cannot be downplayed.
Would it have been prudent to continue planning for the Sri Lanka series? Even amidst the pandemic, Cricket West Indies (CWI), ECB and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are taking the leap. ECB set up a protective bubble for the cricketers. A similar initiative can be arranged here, with the facilities available in BKSP to properly quarantine players and have them undergo regular coronavirus tests taken by players elsewhere, who resumed training.
Even if cricket was not possible here, Sri Lanka, where the coronavirus situation is a lot better than Bangladesh, would have provided a better scenario for training to commence and play competitive cricket.
The urgency will have to be felt too. In the near future, Bangladesh will not be able to attract international opponents if they cannot even return their own players to training. In the 'new normal' of the Covid-19 realities, a board's ability to partake in 'Covid-19 management' will determine whether they can attract visitors to play in a series. The BCB too has been planning to commence activities soon as per information collected. It is now time to seriously consider the steps to return.
I think it is still risky because the situation is yet to improve. We are not yet sure about when the infection rate will recede. Our facilities are basically all Dhaka-based and cricketers are staying in different parts of the country, so there is a big risk of travelling as well. As chairman of development committee, I am planning to start the camp for our youths in September or October but everything will depend on the situation. See, it would be a huge challenge for us if we want to keep the young players in quarantine and guardians will not feel comfortable. If by any chance anyone gets infected during a camp, a lot of people will criticise us. So, things are not that easy. But for senior players we may think about closed-door training as we have our Academy, Krira Palli and an institution like BKSP. I hope a virtual board meeting will soon be held to discuss the matter.
Former captain and BCB director
Everything is uncertain because we don't know when we will actually completely get relief from coronavirus. I am not saying we should start tomorrow or day after tomorrow but I believe we should start thinking about resumption of cricket immediately. We especially need to think about how we can bring the boys back to training. I am sure our board is working on it as many other countries have already returned to cricket in the new normal world. Our cricketers are staying at home for almost last four months and it would have a devastating effect on their skill, fitness and mental health if it continues for a longer period of time. Players are doing their fitness drill at home but we have to understand that there is nothing like practising outdoors. Yes, we can arrange closed-door practice in Mirpur and we can also think about different options like BKSP.
Former captain and BCB selector
Those who have started proceedings have taken appropriate measures. There is desperation among some cricket boards to start activities and it's not that we are not desperate too. We are amid a pandemic and all the other problems which have emanated from it. Whatever [monetary] reserve we have, we can't depend on that since if we don't have our own events, we won't get sponsors or television rights. Of course, it [creating a bubble to isolate players] is one way of doing it but I don't think it would be a great idea. Whether we can or should try something like that is what we have to decide. It can't be a whimsical decision. We must ensure the safety of everyone concerned. We need to also consider whether it will bring any benefits. We can't force the situation here. If the situation improves and experts believe we can return, then we will. There are decisions based on medical factors.
Ahmed Sajjadul Alam Bobby, BCB director
We are not sitting idle. The board has done all the homework regarding the resumption of cricket in the new normal. Everything is in place: our protocols and the measures we will take when we return to training, how we will utilise our local trainers. We have to think about when we can start training and hopefully, we will make a decision regarding this issue very soon. Many countries have started [cricketing activities] but we have to understand that the situation and reality is not the same in every country. But I do agree we cannot wait for an unlimited period of time. Another fear is that we may suffer in the post-pandemic world in terms of revenue and a lack of international matches. I just want to tell you that Bangladesh cricket now has a strong foothold both on and off the field. Bangladesh cricket has a huge number of viewers.