While Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is making efforts to involve a bigger group of domestic cricketers in five-team Bangabandhu T20 Cup in mid-November with a bid to bringing competitive back cricket in the country in earnest, it could prove to be a huge challenge for local players to cope up instantly.
Following the successful completion of the three-team BCB President's Cup last month, the board had announced that it would gradually head towards competitive cricket with the upcoming T20 competition.
Although the cricketers of the national team, high performance squad and under-19 team had already resumed cricketing activities at least a couple of months ago, it is the domestic cricketers outside these teams who will face the biggest challenge when they make a comeback after more than eight months out due to the pandemic.
Chief selector Minhajul Abedin on Friday informed that the players selected in the draft list for the upcoming T20 tournament in November-December will have to undergo mandatory fitness test before being considered eligible for the competition. The test has been planned to particularly assess fitness levels of cricketers outside the national team, high performance squad and the under-19 set-up.
"We have been encouraged by the individual fitness work done by the national team, HP team and under-19 players during the lockdown period and the effort they had put in helped them adjust quickly when group training and matches started.
"We expect the other cricketers, who may have been outside the setup, to show the same level of commitment to individual fitness and come prepared for the test," said Minhajul.
The schedule for the fitness test will be announced following finalisation of the players' list for the draft. According to top-order batsman Shamsur Rahman, currently out of the national team but a prolific performer in domestic circuit, matching the fitness standards will not be such a big challenge as it would be to match the skill part in such a short time.
"I don't think fitness will be an issue as we would be able to reach that standard by this time, but the challenge will be in the skill department. We were unable to do proper practise during the last seven or eight months, especially the players in Dhaka who mainly rely on facilities at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
"During other times, we could have used the centre wicket of the academy or the outer nets turf but during this lockdown, I had to bat on concrete pitches. Obviously, there's a big difference compared to what the national players did, but that has always been the challenge for players outside the national team set-up and we have to accept it," Shamsur told The Daily Star.
While Shamsur focused on issues of players in the capital, things are not smooth for the players outside the capital either. All-rounder Ariful Haque, another national team discard who is currently in Rangpur, is planning to prepare at BKSP alongside Shakib Al Hasan and Test skipper Mominul Haque as the facilities at his hometown do not match top standard.
"It's been difficult as I couldn't work on my skills properly with limited facilities here in Rangpur. If there is rain, it takes seven days for the field to get back to normal again. Yes, it will be a challenge for players like us but I think we have to be mentally strong to be able to get back to the groove again," said Ariful.