There was a time when cricket of Bangladesh was dominated by the Chittagonians but the balance of power has now shifted from the south to the north with Rajshahi emerging as the new powerhouse of domestic cricket.
After winning all three trophies – the National Cricket League four-day, one-day and Twenty20 versions – Rajshahi also completed a rare treble this season with the NCL, Inter-District Club Cup and Inter-District Cricket Tournament triumphs.
The emergence of Rajshahi as a dominant force in local cricket indicates that a proper planning and execution with a farsighted goal can make a division a real force to be reckoned with.
Not in the very distant past the young boys of Rajshahi, a border district, were being spoiled by abuse of drugs, but cricket has now dragged them out of this dangerous path.
Thanks to the initiatives from the likes of former national captain Khaled Mashud, the game has now become a social movement in Rajshahi and they are reaping the rewards with both hands.
If the hat-trick NCL title cannot be a good example for it, one can look into their latest triumph in the Inter-District Cricket, a tournament which they won after a gap of 18 years without fielding any of their national players.
The competition in the Rajshahi team is so high that left-arm spinner Sohrawardi Shuvo, a member of the national team, could not make it to the best XI in their recent NCL final against Dhaka.
The same can be said about Sabbir Rahman, the Asian Games hero and a member of the World Cup provisional squad, who was nowhere near their best XI.
Sabbir was just waiting for an opportunity and when he got a chance to play in Inter-District Cricket final, the all-rounder proved his mettle to set up a massive 108-run win over Mymensingh.
Mashud was credited with this dramatic rise of Rajshahi team.
‘I feel honoured to represent Rajshahi,’ Junaed Siddique, a national opener, told New Age on Saturday.
‘Basically Pilot Bhai (Mashud) was the main motivational factor for us as he instilled a self pride in us,’ said Junaed.
‘The reason for our success is that we play cricket all through the year and that is not the case with the other divisions may be. There are plenty of academies in Rajshahi where the competitions are very high among the students and thus we get a lot of young players,’ said Junaed.
Shahnewaz Shanu, a former national player and
long time coach of Rajshahi team, also feels that the cricket academy culture is finally paying the dividends for then.
‘There are lots of academies in Rajshahi and this is our main strength. They had provided us with a lot of talented players. Many are also waiting in the pipe line,’ Shahnewaz told New Age.
‘There are Prathomik Krira Shikha Prothisthan run by Baikali, Jubo Krira Sangha, North Bengal Cricket Academy, Rajshahi Cricket Academy, Bangla Track and Mashud’s Clemon Cricket Academy to name a few.
‘All these academies are having a year-long programme which gives us the edge over others as they strengthen the backbone of our cricket,’ said Shahnewaz.
Minhajul Abedin. a former captain and now a national selector who once was the cornerstone of dominant Chittagong team, thinks that Rajshahi is far ahead of the others because of proper planning and implementation.
‘They have got a proper planning and they implement it perfectly,’ Minhajul told New Age.
‘We are having the league now in Chittagong, but we hardly see any careful planning in our region. Rajshahi on the other hand knows what it is needed for cricket and that’s why they are successful,’ he said.