‘Enough is enough’: Saber calls for entire board to resign
In the wake of Bangladesh's disastrous World Cup campaign, The Daily Star's Al-Amin communicated with former BCB president and Member of Parliament, Saber Hossain Chowdhury. Saber, who oversaw Bangladesh's first qualification for the ICC World Cup in 1999 and the country's subsequent elevation to a Test-playing nation, expressed his frustration with the state of the sport in the country, putting the current cricket board on the dock for its lack of professionalism, accountability and nepotism. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
The Daily Star (DS): Bangladesh made their World Cup exit with only two wins against seven defeats. How disappointing was the result to you?
Saber Hossain Chowdhury (SHC): Acutely disappointing. Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and even the players were fuelling expectations prior to the World Cup that we would make it to the semifinals. The shocking reality is that we were the first team to be out of the race for a top-four finish; we lost to one of the two qualifiers (Netherlands). We finished just above the two qualifiers (the other being Sri Lanka) and the margin of defeat in each instance just added insult to injury. If we only consider the teams who did not have to quality for this 2023 World Cup, we are in fact at the bottom of the final points table.
DS: People are saying that it was the second most disappointing World Cup for Bangladesh since their maiden appearance in the showpiece event in 1999. What is your take on that?
SHC: In our World Cup debut in 1999, as an Associate Member of ICC, we notched up two wins (against Pakistan and Scotland) in five matches. Here, we were with 23 years of Test experience and we have won two matches out of nine. Astonishing!
We are literally going backwards and regressing whereas a country such as Afghanistan, who secured Test Status 17 years after we did and are confronted with manifold challenges, are marching ahead. We have also lost to the Netherlands who are not even a Test-playing nation. Ireland, though they were not able to qualify on this occasion, is another country that is making great progress.
I, thus, see this as our worst World Cup and BCB has saved up the worst for its latest World Cup campaign.
DS: Players and team management can certainly be blamed for the debacle. Do you think the BCB should share equal blame?
SHC: Passing the buck and putting the blame on others has been a consistent hallmark of the BCB leadership over the past decade. When fingers are pointed and shortcomings exposed, it is always either someone else's fault or it is a conspiracy. Who has appointed team management; who has appointed the selectors; who interferes in team selection?
We all know, and I am not revealing any secrets here, that despite the glorified titles and job descriptions, BCB continues to be an absolute one-man show with no semblance of accountability or collective leadership.
DS: There was a lot of drama over the selection of the team for the World Cup. The country has also painfully witnessed an open rift between two iconic players. Do you think the whole episode played a big part in Bangladesh's failure?
SHC: Preparing and planning for the greatest spectacle in the form of a World Cup is no child's play and should have been taken seriously. What is needed is stability, continuity, integrity and professional competence, not clowns providing comic relief amongst the chaos and drama.
DS: The BCB reappointed Chandika Hathurusingha as head coach of the national team ahead of the World Cup. Was that a wise decision, considering his departure in an unprofessional manner in his first stint?
SHC: Till date, we do not know why he departed, let alone why he was reappointed for a second stint. Was there a full and open discussion underpinning a transparent process in either or both of these instances?
DS: Do you think the current BCB leadership followed the standard procedure in appointing a captain and his deputy?
SHC: These are both very important positions and the choices merit careful consideration and evaluation, including those peculiar to a limited-overs competition and that too in the context of a World Cup. One would hope that the process and procedure has indeed been a comprehensive and inclusive one, but this question should be directed at the BCB.
DS: A lot of things happened in India that highlighted a lack of discipline and cohesion in the team. Venting his frustration to the media, team director Khaled Mahmud had said that he was not involved with some issues that his position mandated him to do. It indicates that the board has given free reins to certain individuals which eventually backfired. Do you agree with the notion?
SHC: Interesting that you are quoting someone who has been favoured all along by the current leadership and has been tasked with multiple, conflicting roles in the past. It's even more interesting that Allan Donald has been issued with a show-cause notice for speaking to the media whereas this individual is evidently above the rules that apply to others. We are all familiar with Individuals disowning or distancing themselves from failing leadership and this is of course nothing new.
DS: After the debacle, some heads may roll. Do you think the changing and chopping will really solve a deep-rooted problem, starting with the poor state of domestic cricket to an obsession only over the senior men's team?
SHC: Heads have rolled in the past and will also, no doubt, roll again as scapegoats will be conveniently identified. I suspect, yet again, it will be the appointed ones, and not those who have decided on and finalised these appointments, that will actually be taking the fall.
Domestic cricket continues to be in a mess, does not have the needed focus/priority, there is hardly any governance and allegations of match-fixing and biased umpiring remain uninvestigated. Our international cricket will only be strong to the extent of the strength of the base provided by our domestic calendar and structure.
DS: People are calling for the incumbent BCB President Nazmul Hassan Papon to take full responsibility for the failure and resign. Are you on the same page?
SHC: Enough is enough. I think all the board members of the BCB should resign as it is their collective failure when looked at through the lens of accountability. They have let the nation down big time and the buck must stop with them.
It is staggering to comprehend and grasp that a game which is the number one sport in the country, is a passion for millions of Bangladeshis across the world, has a rich tradition, is supported robustly by sponsors, has high visibility and media interest and, last but not the least, is sitting on a fund of BDT 1000 crores (thanks to the share of global sponsorships we earn as a Full Member of the ICC), is ironically being run by a board which is perhaps the most inept and unprofessional in Bangladesh's cricketing history.