It is very much a cry for help in the desert. Allegations of widespread corruption in the lower-tier circuits of Bangladesh cricket has been a recurring theme over the past few years. It has been spreading like cancer, leaving those involved in grassroots cricket crying out for help from the wilderness. Media outlets have carried reports of this chronic illness in Bangladesh cricket, and stories have spread on social media too. The issue was given more weight when national cricketers talked about it as fact during the three-day players’ strike last month. Despite all the noise, there seems to be no end to this disease eating away at the heart of the country’s cricket.
At the start of this year, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) President Nazmul Hassan had issued a warning. “If I stay with cricket for another three years then I will not give an inch to anything. I will keep after it till its end.”
But nothing has changed. Instead, passionate cricket organisers have been losing interest and young, aspiring cricketers have been suffering terrible instances of mysterious dismissals.
The script of manipulated matches was all but the same as the clubs, who allegedly have the blessing from influential board members, used their men behind the stumps to ensure the result in their favour.
One such dramatic episode took place at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah on Sunday during a crucial third division league match that stirred an uproar on social media after a club official uploaded a video on his Facebook showing officials chanting ‘thief, thief!’ at two two ‘controversial’ umpires -- Jahirul Islam Jewel and Saidur Rahman.
The Dhaka Royal Cricketers official alleged that their batsman Zahid Hasan was about to single-handedly take the team past Kamrangir Char Sporting Club’s 148 after many controversial decisions from the umpires. Zahid, along with Taslimuddin, made sure during a 79-run partnership that they would not allow the ball to hit their pads. The scenario changed once Taslim returned to the pavilion as a batsman was adjudged leg before wicket even though he came down the wicket. Then a surprising new low awaited Zahid when the umpire raised his finger in response to the wicketkeeper’s run-out appeal even though the batsman was standing inside the crease.
The official added that in sharp contrast, earlier in the match Kamrangir Char batsman Mortaza Ahmed, on 20, was well out of the crease when the Dhaka Royal wicketkeeper broke the stumps but the umpires ruled in favour of the batsman, who went on to score 51.
“This match was very important as both teams had three points and only a win could stave off relegation for either team. All the decisions went against us. Just ask who runs Kamrangir Char Club, you can then understand why it happened. We were worried once we saw the two umpires. We knew when these two umpires came that it would be impossible for us to win. How can one [Jahirul Islam Jewel] who is a representative of Purbachal Club officiate in the match,” said Royals official Sabbir Ahmed Rubel.
Royals lodged a complaint to match referee and former national cricketer Monjurul Islam, who refused to make any comments saying that he communicated his observations to the board.
Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis (CCDM) chairman Kazi Inam Ahmed said: “We will look into it. There were four cameras, so the umpires’ committee will check it and then we will try to find out the truth. Regarding an umpire’s involvement as a club representative, I am not aware of it… you can ask the umpires’ committee.”
It was not possible to get any comments from officials of Kamrangir Char Sporting Club as Saiful Islam -- who had taken care of the team in the past -- informed that he left the club while secretary Miraz Hossain Munna said that he was not present at the match as he was busy with the BPL Players’ draft. He also informed that Kamrangir Char’s owner is Obeid Nizam, who was the CEO of Dhaka Dynamites.
Many club officials however alleged that it all started from the opening game of the third division league when umpires called no-ball whenever Young Pegasus bowlers -- who conceded 14 no balls, including nine by spinners -- got wickets against Dhrubo Sporting Club.
“There is however hardly any hope. Just look at the owners of the clubs and who finances them, who is involved in all the misdeeds, then you can find the answer,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
With such episodes seemingly becoming a staple of Bangladesh’s lower-tier cricket, it appears that the rot has set in at the root.