A common sight in normal times but a rarity in the new normal – anticipation was in the air as a small group of people gathered outside Gate-2 of the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. Competitive cricket was returning to the country after seven months.
For someone who reports regularly on Bangladesh, walking through Gate-1 of the stadium to cover the first match of the three-team 50-over BCB President's Cup yesterday was like a sort of homecoming.
Masks and sanitisers were ensured but there was still a sense of apprehension in the press box, which was dispelled as excited journalists tried to maintain social distance.
Bangladesh Cricket Board's [BCB's] efforts to get the game back on the field reached the execution stage yesterday as Najmul XI took on Mahmudullah XI in the opening game.
There was a sense of satisfaction among the BCB officials, including President Nazmul Hassan, who were present to witness the game. A minute of silence was observed in memory of the cricket personalities who have passed away in recent months and the victims of Covid-19 and the country witnessed its first top-tier cricket action for the first time since March. Although general entry was restricted for spectators, the BCB did telecast the tournament through its official Facebook and YouTube pages.
BCB had suspended cricket in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the country resumed normal activities since early August and cricketers started induvial training. Considering the situation, BCB had first come up with plans to resume through the national team's tour of Sri Lanka for a three-match Test series.
The cricketers were initially allowed to attend individual practice sessions in small groups and then as a full unit inside a bio-secure bubble weeks before their travel to the island nation. The plan however fell through as BCB rejected the health safety conditions that was set by hosts Sri Lanka Cricket and the country's Covid-19 task force.
But it did not deter the board from their intention to get players playing competitive cricket. The board immediately came up with a back-up plan, starting with a couple of practice matches with the red ball and then the 50-over tournament which eventually turned into the BCB President's Cup.
A lot will depend on the success of the President's Cup for the BCB, who are also planning to arrange a five-team corporate T20 league in November.
As far as the action on the field, the cricket yesterday was below-par, considering the anticipation with which all were waiting for cricket to resume.
Najmul XI won the toss and asked Mahmdullah XI to bat as there was a short delay due to rain at the start. But things were all set after the break where Mahmudullah XI faced the music from pacers Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain initially in overcast conditions and were struggling on 21 for three at one stage.
Naim Sheikh, Liton Das and Mominul Haque were the early casualties before skipper Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes steadied the ship for the batting side.
The pair went on to repair the early damage but could not capitalise as Imrul departed for 41 while skipper Mahmudullah also perished after reaching his fifty.
Mahmudullah XI were eventually bundled out for 196 with pacers Taskin, Al-Amin and Mukidul Islam bagging two wickets each.
It will be harsh to point fingers at the cricketers who failed yesterday. Instead, it was indeed a welcome sight to see competitive cricket finally back in the country – everything else was, for yesterday at least, secondary.
SCORES IN BRIEF
Mahmudullah XI: 196 all out in 47.3 overs
Najmul XI: 197 for six in 41.1 overs
Result : Najmul XI won by four wickets