The government’s stern move against illegal casinos in Dhaka and elsewhere, has left the country’s sports fraternity in confusion.
Alongside sports organizers and leading sports clubs, it is now being widely considered that the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has also been left in disarray due to the illegal casino saga and the cricket authority’s stance against corruption.
The arrest of BCB Director Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) dealt the initial blow to BCB, the cricket governing body in the country.
The issue has not only tarnished the image of the organization, but also affected its daily operations, according to media reports.
A good number of the Dhaka cricket league clubs have also drawn the attention of law enforcement authorities in light of the casinos.
Kalabagan Krira Chakra (KKC) President Shafiqul Alam Firoz’s arrest under the Narcotics Control Act also made a big splash in the news. He was later taken into a 10-day remand.
Club signatories taken into custody and in some cases bank accounts being frozen, has driven the clubs into a financial crunch, where on Wednesday was the final day for the transfer of first-division players that requires accessing money .
Many of the first and third division cricket league clubs of Dhaka are unable to access their accounts.
These clubs are also unsure of how they will receive the financial support that BCB provides them, as the transactions are normally done through banks.
First division cricket team KKC’s Treasurer Khacib Ahmed said they had requested the board to provide them the funds in the form of a cashier’s cheque, but he learnt on Tuesday that the BCB denied that request.
“The club holds a joint account document which must be signed by the president [Shafiqul] and me. With his absence, it has become impossible for us to get money out from the bank,” he told.
The clubs in crisis did not, however, hold back from completing player transfer signing formalities in due time, despite the lack of help from the cricket board.
The special BPL challenge
One of the biggest pending tasks for the BCB now isto hold the “special edition” of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 in December this year.
BCB President Nazmul Hasan on September 24, following the final of the tri-nation T20I series at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur, had announced that the “complete plan” of the tournament would be made “public” in a couple of days.
But the next time he faced the media, three days later, he mostly answered questions concerning the people involved in the casino scandals.
The BPL T20 is undoubtedly a major tournament for Bangladesh’s cricket and around the globe.
However, uncertainties surrounding the franchise-based league have evolved and with only a couple months left for a scheduled start, BCB keeping quiet on the subject of the upcoming BPL T20 is being seen as suggesting that the ongoing scandals have derailed the board’s momentum.
Lokman, a member of the BPL governing council, was also chairman of the BCB facilities management committee and is currently behind bars, facing interrogation since his arrest on September 26, about his connections to the illegal casino business.
BPL GC Member Secretary Ismail Haider Mallick has been unavailable for the past week, suggesting yet another strong reason for not having any real development in the upcoming season tournament.
The absence of Mallick, acting chairman of the BCB finance committee, has also resulted in a delay in the disbursement of salaries of board officials and staff in the month of September.
According to media reports, BCB usually pays salaries by the 25th day of every month.
Despite reaching out to different sources, Mallick’s location could not be confirmed and his phone was showing switched off when this report was filed yesterday.
Another board director, Mahbub Anam, who was made part of the BPL GC recently, has been abroad for the past several weeks, further thinning out the BCB’s governing body.
Mahbub was also served a notice by the Anti-Corruption Commission to submit his wealth statement, after allegations of amassing illegal wealth were levelled against him.
Mum’s the word?
Finding no spokesperson who might provide concrete statements, the media turned to BCB CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury for answers regarding the BPL, only to find him reluctant to comment on the issue.
The board high-ups faced the media on both Sunday and Monday, but only talked about the progress of the upcoming National Cricket League (first-class cricket tournament), the importance of cricketer fitness, and the upcoming international series.
BCB chief Nazmul, otherwise a media-friendly person, has also been almost mum about BPL in front of the press following the revelation of various issues.
The board’s plan to involve sponsors for the team and not the franchises for the season, is pending, and although the deadline for the Expression of Interest submission was September 22, the BCB is yet to declare the names.
Under the current circumstances, many in the sporting fraternity believe it is only a matter of time for BCB to shelve the tournament for the season, and one may find hints of that in the words of BCB Media and Communications Committee Chairman Jalal Younus.
“I have been informed that six companies have dropped EOI for team sponsorship. For the remaining one team, it is yet to be decided if the BCB will manage it or not,” Jalal told on Tuesday.
“We will need to sit and discuss with the interested sponsors and inform them of their responsibilities. Everything is planned, but it will take time to complete the process and you cannot do anything about it,” he said.
Jalal added: “We want to ensure that the process is completed well. But if it doesn’t finish in time, then this season of BPL will get delayed.”
Worst case scenario
In a worst case scenario, BCB still has the option of changing its decision and getting the existing franchises involved.
However, with only about two months left, Rajshahi Kings CEO Tahmeed Azizul Huq thinks the challenge is not an easy one.
“Managing a franchise is a process and involves many things. Starting with the selection of players to logistics operations, all of it needs to be given time for it to be of a minimum standard,” he said.
“It will be very challenging for us to start if that happens now. We have zero preparation at this point. We will be able to think about it if the tournament is delayed,” Tahmeed added.
Sylhet Sixers CEO Yasir Obaid also echoed similar sentiments, and added that his franchise, and others, need to settle terms first.
“As a sports team we always want to play, but time is a constraint at this point. Sylhet Sixers and the other franchises have their respective ways of operating. You need to give proper time to operate a franchise of international standards. Then there is also the matter of terms that we have been waiting to settle with BCB,” Yasir told.
Meanwhile, September 30 was the deadline for the registration of foreign cricketers.
However, with the humongous uncertainty prevailing, overseas players are looking into opportunities with other leagues that will run parallel to the BPL schedule.
As of on Wednesday, at least three overseas cricketers — AB de Villiers, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir Khan — are reported to have signed up for Australia’s Big Bash T20 league.
Upon investigation, the current board has not fulfilled certain constitutional requirements.
Since its election in October 2017, the board has not held polls for two vice president posts.
Most of the BCB standing committees are also not complete. These committees only have either a chairman or a member secretary at the moment.
A few BCB directors and officials for comments on why this was the case, but they failed to give any plausible explanations.