All eyes on Mirpur as cricket returns to Bangladesh
March 16, 2020 was the last time Bangladeshi cricketers played a competitive game. The backdrop was the first round of the Dhaka Premier League, which was cancelled shortly after following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country.
After that long seven-month gap, cricketers will once again return to the field through the BCB President's Cup today.
Mahmudullah XI will take on Najmul XI in the opening game of the 50-over tournament at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur today.
All matches will be day-night affairs and it will mark the Bangladesh Cricket Board actually resuming cricket in an attempt to gradually host international teams.
Cricketers from the national team, high performance team and members of the 2019 ICC Under-19 World Cup-winning side were divided into three teams, with Tamim XI the third team.
Although this three-team tournament may not be as financially beneficial as the DPL or first-class competitions since the sports sector has been hard-struck by the pandemic, the BCB did try to encourage players by announcing Tk 15 lac for the champions.
The runners-up will receive Tk 7.5 lac while there are rewards of Tk 2 lac for the man of the series and a Tk 1 lac reward for the best batsman, bowler and fielder of the tournament. The player of the final will also receive Tk 1 lac.
However, for cricketers, the monetary remuneration is a secondary thought. They will be more delighted to return to the field in a competitive tournament. Even the selectors have their eyes on the tournament after the tour of Sri Lanka was postponed recently.
"Obviously, we were willing to have a squad for the Sri Lanka series and we were planning to have a look at the players during the training camp. Unfortunately, the series got postponed in the end but we do have a group of players in mind. This tournament may not fulfil the expectations of the players financially but it has its own significance," member of the national selection panel and former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar told The Daily Star.
"I am sure the players will be as serious as they were during the practise matches and how they remain during any competitive tournament. We will keep a close eye on each and every single tournament from now on. But at the same time, we are also not going to pressure the players. We want to see their attitude and observe whether they give their hundred percent or not," he added.
It will be a battle between experience and youth in the opening game. Mahmudullah's side -- featuring the likes of Liton Das, Mominul Haque, Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman, Rubel Hossain and Mehedi Hasan Miraz -- will take on Najmul's relatively younger side, featuring Afif Hossain, Saif Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Towhid Hridoy and guided by the experienced hand of Mushfiqur Rahim.