As the World Test Championship has been heavily publicised since its inauguration in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the ICC ODI Super League go under the radar.
To say being a Bangladesh cricket fan is frustrating is a huge understatement. For all the big strides they take in one month, the Tigers will go two or three steps back in the following months.
From humiliating India, Pakistan and South Africa in three ODI series in 2015 with a pace heavy attack and a fearless batting line-up on flat wickets at home, Bangladesh go back to producing rank turners for home series again with inconsistent results.
Since they got embarrassed by newcomers Afghanistan in a one-off Test at Chattogram on a flat wicket in September 2019, questions of Bangladesh’s domestic leagues have come into question.
The main question is whether the Bangladesh domestic competitions are played at a high enough standard to produce great cricketers.
Take Liton Das. In his first-class career barring Test matches, Das has scored 4287 runs at an average of 53.59 with 15 hundreds and 18 fifties. In his Test career, Das has scored 1134 runs in 24 matches, averaging 28.35 with the bat. Thus, Das’ Test career so far is a prime example of the massive gulf between Bangladesh’s domestic competitions and the high standards of Test cricket.
Add to the fact that the Bangladesh Cricket Board is filled with mostly politicians instead of former players and the chances of proper investment remains slim.
So where now for Bangladesh cricket, especially for its players? Bar a handful, such as Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, hardly any players would get a gig at County cricket to better themselves.
This is where Sydney grade cricket comes into play.
Since 2000 (when Bangladesh played their first Test), Bangladesh have handed out Test caps to 97 players. In that same time, New South Wales have produced 22 Test cricketers, with the likes of Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon all having successful careers.
All of the 22 NSW baggy greens came through the competitive ranks of Sydney grade cricket. Even for those who didn’t get the prolonged chances at Test level, such as Steve O’Keefe, Doug Bollinger and Trent Copeland, all dominated Sydney grade cricket before performing well for the Blues in the Sheffield Shield.
Sydney holds the highest Bangladeshi diaspora among the major cities in Australia, which would help ensure players aren’t alienated in a foreign land or homesick.
But most importantly, it’ll help the players learn how to play in foreign conditions. More often than not, Bangladesh cricketers who perform well at under-19 level are rushed into international cricket and are harshly exposed as they’re clearly not ready for the arena. If these youngsters can adapt well at Sydney grade cricket, then the chances of them doing well at international cricket are a lot better.
Right now, Bangladesh’s domestic cricket isn’t good enough to produce quality cricketers. Sydney grade cricket would be a great learning curve should these cricketers get the opportunity to play.
But would a highly stubborn BCB, led by controversial president Nazmul Hassan Papon, even think of the betterment of Bangladesh cricket? Only time will tell.
Bangladesh cricket hasn’t needed Sydney grade cricket to revive Bangladesh cricket as badly as it does now, especially as their big-name players enter the twilight of their careers with no apparent heirs.