New Age-Nando’s Cricket ADDA
The fifth and final New Age-Nando’s adda on the ongoing World Cup was held on Friday at the Gulshan outlet of the world-renowned Portuguese restaurant franchise. Khaled Mahmud, a former captain of the national cricket team, Ishtiaque Ahmad, a former member of the national cricket team, and noted actors Pijush Bandapadhaya and Jayosree Kar participated in the adda, which was moderated by Nurul Kabir, the editor of New Age. Following are excerpts:
When we talk about the World Cup of football, we talk about it as outsiders and as spectators. But when we talk about the World Cup of cricket, we talk about it with both passion and pride because we are very much part of the matrix. Cricket has given us international recognition, an international identity. The recognition or the identity did not come overnight; it took years for Bangladesh where it is now.
Cricket has also given the world a wider scope for people-to-people contact. The second semifinal match between India and Pakistan is a good example. As we all know, the two countries have a long history of bitter rivalry. However, ahead of the semifinal at Mohali, the Indian government issued more than 4,000 visas so that people from Pakistan can come over and watch the game. Many Pakistanis used the opportunity to meet relatives and old friends. Moreover, the final will be played between two South Asian countries, which is indeed a matter of pride for the people of the region. Of course, it would have been better if Bangladesh had made it to the final.
It is painful, however, to see that people at large are more often than not pushed out of the picture as the cricketing nations of South Asia try to project themselves as rich. We all know that the South Asian countries are poor; yet, we try to portray ourselves as beggar-free, street vendor-free to the rest of the world. It was indeed unfortunate that we sought to make key roads and places in the capital Dhaka and Chittagong off-limits to beggars and street vendors to facilitate smooth hosting of the World Cup. The hardship that such a move brought upon their lives certainly hung heavy on the festivity that the World Cup brought to Bangladesh. It would have been great indeed if people from all walks of life, poor and rich, had been able to come together to celebrate the World Cup.
On that note, let us now focus on the strides that Bangladesh in particular and South Asia in general have made in cricket in recent years. Let us also talk about where Bangladesh plan to go from here and what it needs to reach its objective. Ishtiaque Ahmed, what is your view?
The greatest achievement for Bangladesh’s cricket came 10 years or so back when we secured the Test status. We also have at least two players who rank among the top in world cricket today. Of course, we had some experience of playing cricket before; however, playing Test cricket is a different ballgame altogether. Frankly speaking, even at the peak of my career, I may not have been good enough to play Test cricket. The boys have really achieved a lot.
Many would argue that the team failed to perform but we have to look deeper. We need to look at the condition that the team is playing in, the facilities they are given. Of course, the facilities have improved a lot since the days when played cricket; however, in comparison with other Test-playing countries, Bangladesh lags far behind. Yet, the quality of our cricket has definitely improved.
We still lack cricketing culture. Abahani, Mohammedans are soccer-based clubs. Cricketing infrastructure is still not present at the club level. I have worked for the Bangladesh Cricket Board and I would say that I have failed as an administrator in respect of facilitating infrastructure development for the game. I also believe that the administration has failed to do so till date.
The administrators of the game in Bangladesh also lack vision. Once we won the Test status, they should have started working on five- or ten-year plans for players’ development. Look at the domestic cricket structures of Sri Lanka and India; they are so strong and rich. Our cricket also has the potential and the prospect, and is full of resources. These young players are rated among the best solely on their performance. We have serious shortcomings in terms of infrastructure and facilities, in comparison with those of the neighbouring countries.
Sometimes the media also fails to point out many shortcomings that Bangladesh cricket has.
I agree with Ishtiaque Ahmad. Our sports journalists generally swing between the extremes when talking about the cricket team’s performance. As Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays, nothing happens out of nothing. Cricketers of yesteryears have a major contribution to Bangladesh cricket, the level it has reached now. Just as the media industry would not have reached the level it has had Binod Dasgupta, Zahur Hossain Chowdhury not sacrificed their lives for journalism, Bangladesh cricket would not have made it this far had the former players not given their best for its development.
There is no denying that Bangladesh cricket has a bright future. Everywhere, even in madrassahs and in remote areas, you will find children playing cricket.
Let us now bring Jayosree Kar into the conversation.
First of all, I am not a cricket specialist; rather, I am just a cricket fan. I believe we have achieved a lot. These days our cricketers fight to win whenever they take to the field; it is, in my view, our greatest achievement.
Pijush Bandapaddhaya, how do you look at Bangladesh’s achievement in cricket?
We won our independence about 40 years ago through a freedom struggle and definitely it would not have been possible for eleven Bengali players to play Test cricket playing without liberation.
And cricket in our country has a long history. In fact, it was the Bengalis who started playing cricket in this area first. People from Kishoreganj, Bikrampur and Maharajas of Natore started and patronised cricket at first. Names of Pankaj Roy, Kartik Bose and many others adorn history.
During the Pakistan period, the Dhaka stadium was used as a Test venue. I still can remember the West Indies tour of 1958 when they played a Test match in Dhaka. In 1971, at the end of February, there was a match in Dhaka. Roquibul Hasan was the lone player from East Pakistan and also the lone Bengali. Roquibul had a Joy Bangla sticker on his bat. Not only Roquibul, there were many other quality players in East Pakistan but they did not get a chance to play for Pakistan. Like many other sectors, there was discrimination in cricket. It is for such discrimination that we fought the war.
Again, our cricketers also fought against the Pakistani army during the war of independence. Jewel, Mushtaq and Rumi were some who sacrificed their life for the country.
When we talk about sportsmanship, cricket creates sportsmanship in a civilised manner, and we observe that cricket playing families have different mindset from that of the non-cricket-playing families.
About people-to-people relation we saw that after Bangladesh had become champions in the ICC Trophy, the entire Bangladesh poured on to the street and rejoiced. We also cried in joy as it was big day after the liberation war.
We came to know that the World Cup would be co-hosted by Bangladesh at least six years ago and later we got some more matches after they were taken away from Pakistan. But we were not prepared as a host nation. Why did we not prepare for the World Cup in the past six years? Why did we do it so hurriedly just four or five months away from the inauguration?
In the name of beatification, why the Islami Bank was given the work? They are the financiers of Jamaat-e-Islami, a party which was against the liberation war.
Our minister is going to have an inquiry as to why Bangladesh was bundle out for 58 and 78, but I don’t think it is necessary. Our team was the youngest team in terms of age among the 14 nations playing the World Cup. Their average age was 22 or 23. What can you expect from them? But our cricketers should be more professional.
Domestic cricket is important. In our country we had strong school cricket and university cricket. We used to have Nirman School and we need more such tournaments. We also need cricket in upazila and district levels. And the Bangladesh Cricket Board and the government should take the responsibility.
If we look at our achievements, it is really a matter of pride that Bangladesh has been playing in the World Cup for quite a few years now. As we were the host nation, we expected Bangladesh to reach the quarterfinals. Some of us even expected them to reach the semifinals. In the World Cup we were put in a tough group and won three matches including the one against England.
Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainty. We performed poorly in the match against the West Indies; our batsmen played irresponsibly. I think the cricketers should be concentrating on their mental ability, and it was the coach’s responsibility to make them mentally strong.
The media can play a vital role. We saw the media air footage, in which Mashrafee was engaged in an altercation with Jamie Siddons after joining the training camp of the national team. This kind of incidents depicts something. I would say Dal Me Kuch Kala Hai. We need to find out if there is a problem and the cricket board should be more responsible.
There should be some symbols depicting Bangladesh as the host of the World Cup. It would be really unfortunate if, a few years from now, there was nothing to show that Bangladesh hosted the World Cup.
Here, I would share a personal experience with you. I went to Moscow and Munich and visited where different sporting events of the Olympics were held. Many would opt to do the same when they visit a country that hosted the World Cup.
In tourism context, Bangladesh failed to use the World Cup. It was an abject failure. Just four months away from the inauguration, we came to know that the Bangladesh Tourism Board would make a film but what happened to the project remains anybody’s guess.
It was unnecessary to evict beggars from the street.
It was really unnecessary to show that we are an improved country. We also failed to earn much foreign currency as we fail to take the advantage of showcasing Bangladesh properly to the visitors.
I think the people would demand accountability from the authorities on their failures. If an inquiry committee can be formed to scrutinise the performance of the players, there should also be an inquiry of the performance of the organisers.
I met a high official of the Bangladesh Cricket Board. He told me that they did not receive the money allocated for the World Cup six months prior to the inauguration ceremony. Then there was a strange incident. The cricket board formed a committee that neither the Sri Lankan nor the Indian cricket board had; its job was to help the organising committee. As it turned out, it hindered more than it helped the organising committee. We should demand investigation of all the failures in terms of smoothly hosting the World Cup.
During the opening ceremony, protocol was done away so that the sports minister could deliver a speech. Needless to say, neither the Sri Lankan nor the Indian sports minister spoke at the inauguration ceremony. If there were to be any investigation, there should be investigations of the failure to erect a monument during the World Cup.
Anyway, we were talking about infrastructure development for cricket in Bangladesh. Now, we will listen to Khaled Mahmud’s views.
I will first pay respect to our freedom fighters and our martyrs, and recall Jewel and Mushtaq, two cricketers who embraced martyrdom during the war of independence. I would also like to recall the efforts put in by the former cricketers of the country, who actually paved the way that eventually led us into the Ivy League of world cricket. Bangladesh playing Test cricket and World Cup is, to me, a great achievement.
Cricket is such a sport where education is crucial. Unfortunately, the current crop of cricketers is weak on that front. Pijush was talking about the average age of players of the team but it was the cricket board that has created the problem. When we retired, there were still some senior players in the team. Where have they gone? There are flaws in our system. A player usually gets matured when he is 26 or 27. Look at the Indian and Australian cricket sides; their average age should be more than 27. A player needs to play three or four years of domestic and first class cricket to garner some experience and develop the ability to cope with pressure.
Speaking of coping with pressure, I need to point out that our domestic cricket has lost its fans. When club cricket used to be played at the Bangabandhu stadium, 20,000 or more people would turn up for every match; from there, we learned our lessons on handling pressure.
Nowadays success comes more frequently that it did in our times. We came to know about a trainer just prior to the 1999 World Cup but he was actually a physiotherapist.
We have had some infrastructure like the Mirpur stadium, which, needless to say, is not adequate, since Bangladesh won Test status in 2000. We have not been able to truly spread the game to every corner of Bangladesh. You won’t see more than 3,000 people at the Mirpur stadium during a Test match. Of course, a lot of people now watch cricket on television.
Many people now know Bangladesh as a cricket-paying country. Once upon a time, the West Indies was known as one. How did people come to know about the West Indies? For their legends. Their cricket culture developed that way.
We have ground problems. I remember playing one of my first division matches at the Mirpur City Club ground in 1988. Last year, I went to the same ground, this time as the coach of a first division side. I was so upset. The condition of the ground seems to have become worse than it was in 1988.
True, there are good facilities for the national team; they have indoor training, have a head coach, batting coach, fielding coach, bowling coach, trainers, physio, etc. True, the national players get good pay. However, all this stops with the national team.
Where is our pipeline? When the selectors look for replacements, they hardly find any. For example, we do not know yet who will be Mashrafee’s replacement, say, five years from now. We have problem with our vision.
I would like to say one more thing from my experience. I retired in 2006 and joined the cricket board as an operations manager of the national cricket academy in June. Later, I worked for four years at the cricket board as an assistant coach with the national cricket team. I have 11 years’ experience as a player and worked with many foreign coaches. Regrettably, many people do not appreciate or recognise our capability. They think we need foreign support. Of course, we need foreign support, but we also have to respect ourselves.
When we played our first Test match in 2000, Imran Sarwar was our coach. Where is Imran bhai now? Sometimes he works as an academy coach, sometimes as a fast bowling coach; he does not even have a permanent position.
We bring foreign coaches spending a huge amount of money. The difference between a foreign coach and a local coach is that the latter works with heart and soul. Foreign coaches hardly understand our culture and will never know the strengths and weaknesses of the players as local coaches do.
There are some people in our board who think we are not prepared yet. But I think, and I am not saying this for myself because I quit the job, those who are working as coach here should be the board’s concern.
Foreign coaches will be changed every four years. Siddons will come, Dev Whatemore will quit. One thing should be noticed that, during Whatemore’s time, Ashraful was known as a star, media wrote about him, but now Asraful is playing at number 7 and not clicking. It is not his natural position but he has to play at number 7.
I think the cricket board should think about these factors; it should put the right people at the right place. I think there are so many capable people; now, it’s time to use their service.
We lack planning. Do we have a plan? What will happen to us five years later? Every country has a strategy, a plan for the next five years, but do we have any plan like that?
I don’t think so.
I was talking about grounds. Sri Lanka built a new stadium in a jungle while we are hearing that we had land in Cox’s Bazar for a stadium. I hope the stadium will be built before the T20 World Cup in 2014, of which Bangladesh will be the host.
In ticket sales, during the World Cup, we made a complete mess. A big portion of tickets were sold on the black market. I bought a Tk 700 ticket for Tk 7,500. How did tickets end up on the black market?
Bangladesh should prioritise cricket as a sport as it is projecting Bangladesh’s image to the world. People get a ground for meeting or procession but not for cricket, it is really sad.
I would say that our parents are brave enough to send their children to playground. I would not send my children to a ground where there is a risk of getting injured. If a child gets injured in his childhood, he would start hating the game. If we cannot send our children to a proper playground, the failure is ours.
We have had slow and steady progress in cricket. Yes, we have had ups and downs. Our cricket history is different than others. We only have a Test cricket history of 11 years. Our cricket will develop and the development will come when we take proper planning, execute them, utilise them, appoint proper person in proper places.
You will have to keep in mine that we need grounds and there is nothing bigger than this issue.
I have to say one thing there are no fixed grounds for meeting also although we have heard the promise over the past 30 years. Now, let us turn to Ishtiaque Ahmad for his views.
I think it is time for accountability of players also. We have no dearth of talent. And scores of 58 and 78 do not do justice such an abundance of talent. I think we should try to know from the players what went wrong. They should be made aware that we are spending money on them and 160 million people are looking at you with high hopes. Players need to have a sense of responsibility. They need to explain what it is that led to the measurable score of 58 and 78.
Cricket is the sports which has earned the nation international recognition. Cricket has given us an identity in the international community. It has given us a lot but I believe it can give us more.
Finally, I would like to say that our cricket board has started to follow a democratic process but I have questions about their capability and they should come forward and own up their failure. I agree with Khaled Mahmud that the authorities should put proper person in proper places.
Khaled Mahmud: The BCB directors come from different places. We do not know what their background is. There were times when cricket used to be strong in Mymensingh, Chittagong and Sylhet. There are BCB directors from these areas. What is the status of the game in these areas now? What have they done to sustain the popularity and standard of the game in their areas?
Pijush Bandapadhaya: Khaled Mahmud raised the right issue. In the past, there were regular cricket leagues at the district level. Not any more. There should been have steps to nurture local cricket. We have seen those sports committees are made of ruling party members always; even club committees are run by ruling party men. We should stop this practice.
I have complaints about World Cup tickets. I know that even the chauffer of some influential people were given tickets.
Now let us have some predictions about tomorrow’s World Cup final. Who will win?
it is really tough to predict. Sri Lanka is strong in fielding and bowling while India’s strength lies in batting, but I will go for India and Sachin Tendulkar really deserves a World Cup medallion.
It is really unpredictable. India is a good team. Sri Lanka has good bowlers while India has good batsmen. I will also go for India.
I want a good match. I want India to be the champions and Tendulkar to score his 100th international century.
India will lift the cup.
We will take some questions from the audience.
There is the issue of malnutrition. More than 60 per cent children of the country are face malnutrition. We also have problems of proper diet. I think the sports, food and education ministries should work together on the issue. One more thing young people should smoke as it really creates problems. The Bangladesh team also faced psychological problems.
Supporters of Bangladesh deserve special mention. They were outstanding, awesome, disciplined. We talked about sexual harassment in the country, but during the World Cup we had seen many girls go to the stadium, spent time at the venues till midnight but no one was harassed during the tournament. The World Cup also proved that sports can play ac vital role to change the attitude of young people.
There are some talks about the pitches and we still use cement pitches. Khaled Mahmud, what do you think about that?
Yes, most of the clubs still practise on cement pitches. It is ultimately harming our cricket. I gave a plan to the cricket board to make four squares in the city in which clubs will practise.
And about nutrition the board initiated a move but shelved it eventually due to financial crisis.
Nurul Kabir: There is a strong link between cricket and politics. India has a stable electoral democracy and its cricket team is also stable. Conversely, the Pakistan cricket team is as unpredictable as the political situation in the country. In the case of Bangladesh, just as political affairs lack accountability, so does cricketing affairs.
We all agree that we need a long-term plan to overcome the problems, tap the potentials and achieve success in cricket. We hope that the authorities will focus on these issues.
Thank you all.