‘The base of the pyramid is gradually decaying’
"It was a time when, in our hearts, we wanted to lose the toss so that we could escape the wrath of the supporters if we ultimately lost the match," former star batter Minhajul Abedin told this reporter while recalling their golden days in the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League.
There are still many who got nostalgic when they reminisce about those days of the country's premier 50-over competition, which was characterised by excitement, drama and suspense. To them, there was no shortage of stories to tell.
Expressing disappointment, many often say now: Those days are gone.
Former national skipper Gazi Ashraf Hossain, who served the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) in different capacities, loves to reminisce about those golden days, which he was very much part of as a player and official.
But he was disappointed that this important competition had failed to live up to the demands of time and expectation.
While there has been huge criticism regarding the lack of a proper structure for first-class competition, Gazi Ashraf observed that hardly anybody noticed the shortcomings in planning and structure in the 50-over competition, with some even believing that the Dhaka Premier Cricket League is the backbone of Bangladesh's success in 50-over cricket.
"If we want to tell the story about the collapse, we must go ten years back in the past. There are a number of reasons for the collapse, including shifting venues outside Dhaka, an inconsistent calendar and the recurring unavailability of national players are just a few of them. Mohammedan roped in a number of national stars for this season and made headlines. But in reality, those national players have little chance to play in the league," said Gazi Ashraf.
"I think it's a totally wrong concept to consider this league the best one in the country. Because of this concept, 12 directors represent the board from here and there is pressure on them to arrange this league regularly. But we have to look at the bigger picture and think beyond the Dhaka League. We have to wonder where these 400-500 players are coming to the league from. These days you cannot make any Dhaka-centric plans for any format if you want to improve the standard.
"Bangladesh cricket is more focused on the national team than the BPL. Nobody is interested in thinking about what is happening all over the country, at the grassroots level. Even when you are think about the Dhaka league, you must think about the whole country's cricket because the players are coming from all over the country. We are already late in reshaping our cricket, particularly the 50-over competition. Now we are basically being sustained by age-level cricket, but you never know if it could be the cause of a huge setback for the country's cricket in the future," he continued.
Gazi Ashraf said that despite international exposure, the country's cricket is run in an old-fashioned manner. "The time has come to split the cricket operations committee. We need a domestic operations committee. Domestic operations committee must look after everything…wickets, grounds, facilities, yoga and upgrading coaching and umpiring standards all over the country and only then you will get quality cricketers for the Dhaka Leagues."
"We play so many day-night international matches but we don't have any proper plan to arrange day-night domestic matches, so how can you expect players to learn the nitty gritty of a day-night match from domestic competitions," questioned Gazi Ashraf, adding that he doubted whether the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has any database that is used to preserve the information of cricket activities all over the country.
The former national captain then pointed out a very vital issue regarding the Dhaka Leagues, comparing it to a pyramid. "We all hear many things and allegations about lower-tier cricket. It's like a pyramid because you cannot think of the Dhaka Premier League separately. Instead, the third Division qualifiers, third division league, second division league and first division league are all linked with the premier league. But unfortunately, the base of this pyramid is gradually decaying," said Ashraf.
The seasoned organiser wanted emphasis on changing the approach and attitude towards the country's cricket rather than only talking about the traditions of a competition.