Perform or perish.
Well, that’s what the new central contract policy of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is all about.
The Nazmul Hassan-led BCB's decision to axe six cricketers from the annual contract’s list has sent a shockwave through the entire cricket fraternity of Bangladesh. Opening batsmen Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes, middle-order batsman Mosaddek Hossain, as well as pacers Taskin Ahmed and Kamrul Islam, have been kept out of the list of the contracted players for the 2018-19 season. Sabbir Rahman’s name, on the other hand, was excluded due to disciplinary issues.
Not only that, the 10 cricketers who have retained their contracts, have been denied a salary hike. Till date, top Bangladeshi players like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim were being paid 420,000 Taka ($5,121) per head per month.
The board has made its stand crystal clear on this issue.
Except their Champions Trophy campaign, which saw them beat World Cup runners-up New Zealand and reach the semi-final, Bangladesh's performance had dipped significantly of late, compared to 2015 and 2016. In the past 12 months, the Tigers could not win a single game on the tours of New Zealand, India and South Africa, whereas, at home, they lost in the final of a T20I tri-series, involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and just managed to scrape to a draw in the Test series against Australia and the Sri Lankan. The newly-implemented central contract policy is BCB’s feedback on that poor showing.
"We have reduced in number because the cricket operations and selectors have decided it. They think that their performances have not been up to a level that makes a compelling case for them to be included in the contract," BCB president Hassan was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Later he revealed that three more ‘rookie’ players will be included in the list and it has been learnt, wicket-keeper batsman Liton Das will be one of those. The other two names are yet to be revealed.
However, here, one needs to question the timing of this harsh decision on the part of the BCB. With the World Cup coming up next year, the board should have acted more sensibly on this entire issue. Yes, wages should be decided according to the performance of an individual, but when the team is preparing for the most prestigious tournament in the cricketing world, a verdict like this can hamper the self-confidence of a youngster. And players like Soumya, Kayes and Taskin and Sabbir together are very much a part of Bangladesh’s World Cup plans. In fact, they are expected to play a major role during the campaign.
Moreover, all the six excluded cricketers have come from middle-class backgrounds, so much so that for some of those families, the monthly amount from the board is the only source of livelihood.
Bangladesh’s One-Day International (ODI) skipper Mortaza has already raised his voice in support of these excluded players. Without criticising the BCB directly, he opined that these young cricketers are the future of Bangladesh cricket and the board should have backed them financially and emotionally at this juncture of their careers.
"Naturally, salary is very important as most of our players are from middle-class family and their game and salary does have a huge impact on their family. You cannot deny it. But the decision lies in the hand of board and they are one to decide who they would keep under their contract, but honestly speaking, performance does not remain in one graph,” Mortaza told reports during a promotional event in Dhaka on Thursday.
"They [Soumya, Taskin, Sabbir and Mossadek] are the future of Bangladesh and they have proved that in their little career. So we must support them as this is our duty. I won't be going backward in this regard,” the Mortaza further mentioned.
Additionally, the author himself got in touch with the Bangladesh sports media fraternity to understand their perspective on this issue.
Azad Majumder, a senior cricket journalist in the country and the sports editor of New Age believes that the new contract has been drafted in order to improve team’s performance in Test cricket.
“This contract was done with the Test team in mind. Taijul (Islam), (Mehedi Hasan) Miraj are not all-format players, but they have been included in the list. Also, Mominul (Haque) only plays Test cricket. Seems, World Cup plans are still not a consideration until the new head coach is appointed. And over there (in the World Cup) the plans will revolve around the fab six [Shakib, Tamim, Mortaza, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah and Mustafizur],” he argues.
However, Majumder had a strong opinion against the exclusion of young all-rounder Mosaddek from the list of centrally-contracted players.
“It is very harsh on Mosaddek, he should have been there. The youngster won a game against New Zealand in the Champions Trophy (last year) with his off-spin (3/13). Mosaddek is a natural replacement of Mahmudullah, who is aging. Plus, he can serve in all three formats,” Majumder explained.
Saif Hasnat, another Dhaka-based cricket scribe, who is following all the latest developments on this issue quite closely, thinks, this entire matter can add to the already chaotic scenario in country’s cricket fraternity.
“Bangladesh cricket is currently dealing with a lot of issues. We are yet to finalise our head coach. The on-field performance hasn’t been great. In the past few series, we were unable to play our usual brand of cricket. Amid all this chaos, this new central contract policy might complicate the situation further. I really hope BCB will reconsider its decision,” he mentioned.
Well, in conclusion, I would like to add that the ball is in BCB’s court right now and it won’t be surprising at all, if a few of the players who missed out on a contract get a last-minute entry.