Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) this week disclosed the new central contract regime for 2020/21 in the cricketing calendar. The disclosure occasioned widespread bewilderment for several reasons.
It was a bit of a comedy in three acts. First, BCB president Nazmul Hassan told the media on March 8 that 16 players, the same number as last year, would be centrally contracted by the board for the period in question. He didn’t reveal any names.
In the second act, on the same day, BCB sent a press release revealing the names of the 16 players who earned the central contract- which can be thought of as a player’s contract to represent Bangladesh.
Finally, BCB sent another press release on March 10 revealing the players’ names and which grade of contract they were in, including Soumya Sarkar who had been missing from the earlier list. BCB, however, didn’t explain anything officially about including Soumya in the contract. At the same time, BCB didn’t disclose the salaries in grades officially.
Observing the process of the announcement of the new central contact and the grades of the players, there are 5 questions which stand out at the moment.
First and foremost: How is the Test captain, Mominul Haque, not in the A-plus category?
There are five different categories in the new central contract, from A-plus for the premium grade, to A, B, C and D. The ‘D’ category is a novel one, replacing the Rookie category.
Bangladesh Test captain and one of the best batsmen of the country in the format, Mominul Haque, has been named as the lone player in the second-best, ‘A’ category. The question is: what was the criterion of including Mominul in A category and why he is not in the A-plus category?
There are four cricketers in the A-plus category, and they are Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal (both in red and white-ball cricket), Mahmudullah Riyad and Soumya Sarkar (only in white-ball cricket). So it’s not as if it has been reserved exclusively for those who represent Bangladesh in all three formats. If Mahmudullah and Soumya are qualified enough to get the contract under A-plus category on the strength of white-ball cricket, surely your Test captain is too.
It seems like BCB was hesitant to include Mominul in the A-plus category and that resulted in creating a new category- A - of which he is the sole occupant.
Mominul has been handed the captaincy of Bangladesh Test team considering his regular appearances in this format and his consistency over time as a batsman in the format, notwithstanding a recent dip. In any case, your Test captain not meriting the top grade of the contract is a pretty glaring remiss. It shows a lack of faith that can only undermine his leadership.
The second question would be: if Soumya deserves a place in the A-plus category based on promise, why not Liton Das and Mustafizur Rahman?
Given his immense potential, Soumya perhaps deserves a place in the A-plus category, even if for white-ball cricket. It was also unfortunate that his name was absent from the first list that was released on March 8. The chief selector insisted to the media rather comically that it was a ‘typing-error’.
BCB always kept their faith in Liton, and the right-handed batsman has started to pay off. He is arguably more promising than Soumya. At the same time, Mustafizur is Bangladesh’s main weapon with the ball in white-ball cricket for a long time now. Their place in the B-category (even skipping the Mominul-only ‘A’) for white-ball cricket surely undervalues them.
That leads us to the third question: are pace bowlers deliberately neglected when it comes to central contracts?
BCB has been waiting for ages to have a good bunch of pace-bowling weapons. In recent time, they got Abu Jayed Rahi and Ebadot Hossain, who have now been playing in Test cricket. But both of them are placed in the D-category (previously known as Rookie) for only red-ball cricket, which is expressly proving BCB’s negligence to the pace bowlers. It’s a long way from pondering even 4-man pace attack in the latter stages of the 2015 World Cup. Interestingly, there are only three pacers in the central contract - two of them are for red-ball cricket and one for white-ball cricket.
The penultimate question would be why are Afif and Naim in the contract but Aminul Islam Biplob misses out?
Understandably, Afif Hossain and Mohammad Naim Sheikh are contracted in the D-category for white-ball cricket for their promise in the format. But why is Aminul Islam Biplob, the leg spinner, left out in the cold? Aminul has already played seven T20Is and shown a knack for wickets. And leg spinners if they come good will make a difference in Test cricket. BCB has been saying for a long time that they are hopeful about a good future of Aminul, but they failed to prove that with the new central contract.
The fifth and last question relates to where the board is placing its priorities for the future of Bangladesh cricket: why is red-ball cricket, that is to say Test cricket, given less attention in central contract?
The top national cricketers had sought to increase the numbers of players in the central contract during the brief uprising back in those stormy days of October. BCB had agreed to the demand then, but it hasn’t eventuated. And as a result, still the elite status that comes with Test cricket for a reason is given less attention in the central contract - we could just about field an eleven in the format.
The board has recently lamented the failure to progress in the format after a string of defeats in Tests (including that nadir against Afghanistan) and pledged to prioritise improvement. Frankly it’s common sense. But BCB’s central contract regime seems founded upon uncommon reasoning.