Feature Img
Photo: ICC.
Photo: ICC.

Mashrafe Mortaza’s Tigers in red-and-green have given Bangladesh much to celebrate this summer of 2015. Back-to-back ODI series wins against Pakistan, India, and South Africa are like a dream script of sporting success that will make any new cricket-playing nation proud. Reaching the World Cup quarterfinals before that, also proved the Tigers are not exactly foxes abroad — they fight like Tigers wherever they play, and go down fighting if not securing a win. After 2015, no cricketing nation will take Bangladesh lightly.

But there is a lurking danger in the way cricket has emerged as the national sport of choice for Bangladesh. The success of Mashrafe Mortaza’s team will surely dwarf all other sports and those who play it in the country of 160 million.

Would the country care to remember shooter Asif Hossain Khan who won a Commonwealth gold in 10 metre air rifle shooting, or a promising archer like Emdadul Haque Milon, or the tennis team that took Bangladesh to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup (Asia/Oceania Zone) in 1989?

Brojen Das, who swam the English channel four times and was the only Asian to be named King of the Channel, is a forgotten name in the country today.

The key question here is whether success in cricket will take away money from all other sports, both in terms of government funding as well as private sector advertising/sponsorship, making Bangladesh a cricket-centric nation! In other words: a one-sport nation. Will all coal only go to Newcastle?

The wild celebrations over the cricket victories is actually a good time to raise the issue of Bangladesh needing a comprehensive sports policy, which will help focus the nation’s energies into some other sports. This can be especially where Bangladesh has the potential to develop world class sportspeople.

The argument I am trying to make is that Bangladesh should follow China, and not India, in its sports policy. In India, the craze for cricket has killed interest — and money — in most other sports, and spawned a culture of crooks that reduced cricket to crass commerce and produced the likes of Lalit Modi and Srinivasan who bring nothing but infamy to the game.

If the Indian experience is any pointer for neighbour Bangladesh, it is a simple message — don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If all the money, including the bad and the black, goes to cricket, it will become a playground for the crooks and not just the cricketers. And cricketers may also end up as crooks, as some have in India.

Thankfully, in India, we have had world champions like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand in badminton, and now Saina Nehwal and P. Sindhu as well. Or even Sania Mirza and Leander Paes in tennis, who have won Grand Slams in doubles with foreign partners. We have produced the occasional Olympic shooting champion like Abhinav Bindra or R.S. Rathore.

But for a one billion plus population, this is peanuts. A drop in the ocean. This is actually a disgrace, and I imagine one reason is that we focus totally on cricket as both sport and past-time.

China tops the medals tally in Olympics after Olympics since the enforced seclusion during the Maoist era. It has a comprehensive sports policy with a focus on developing all Olympic sports. The fact that China has not taken to cricket, for whatever reason, does nothing to belittle its sporting prowess in the world.

For Bangladesh, therefore, it is time to be introspective and choose the right model. The country’s progress in social and human development and its growing economy takes Bangladesh to a take-off stage as far as sports is concerned. Bangladesh needs an inclusive sports policy, not an elitist one based on a one-sport model centred around cricket.

This is not to take away any credit for the Soumya Sarkars and the Mustafizur Rahmans, the Shakibs and Mahmudullahs. They have given the country a real ‘feel-good factor’ after months of vicious political turmoil, grisly deaths in petrol bombings, and the murder of secular bloggers. But it would be great if Bangladesh could spot a champion swimmer from villages around its big rivers and train them to bring home an Olympic Gold, by the time it becomes an upper-middle income country by the end of this decade. Only then would the dream of 1971 be fulfilled.

Subir Bhaumik is a senior editor with bdnews24.com.

Subir Bhaumikis a columnist and former senior editor of bdnews24.com. He also worked as a correspondent of the BBC World Service for many years. As a journalist he has broken some of the biggest stories in North East India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. He has written a number of books on the region.

6 Responses to “Cricket wins are great, but …”

  1. AK Shamsuddin

    It is true that cricket is the focal point in the sports arena of Bangladesh. Successes bring popularity.

    Cricket as a sport is also a mental game, it seems Bangladesh has reached that stage. Now, Bangladesh should strive to win a major trophy like World Cup or the ICC championship trophy.

    Cricket is no more a game of the elites, particularly in this sub continent. It is a people’s game now, as Indian Express in its article of June 18 captioned: Mashrafe Mortaza, the people’s player.

  2. Zahir Firoze

    I agree that we shouldn’t over cook the meal to the point we spoil it, but I disagree that others sports should get too much attention.

    The sports that are loved most and earn the best output should get extra attention. Why? It’s because people should get what they love, should they not? Since people love cricket, it would only be right to invest a little extra on it in a bid to produce better results and thus, give people what they love to see. Moreover, if we do better in cricket, we will earn more money off it and it will contribute even more to the development of the nation.

    To prevent cricket from becoming a playground for corruption and a manufacturing plant for people who will destroy the game, a strict framework is what’s needed the most. If kept under the microscope, we can prevent it from becoming what we fear.

    However, I do agree we must not monopolize cricket as that would cause other sports to die. There could be tennis star blooming in some corner of the nation who is unable to explore his skill at the sport he loves due to it having no value whatsoever. Other sports should get their fair share but cricket undoubtedly deserves the largest piece of cake.

  3. Syed Badrul Ahsan

    Excellent write-up. Should be a wake-up call for everyone — sports policy makers, sportsmen and women and sports enthusiasts. Thank you, Subir!

  4. Golam Arshad

    Subir: Cricket stamps Bangladesh high and bright in the World of Cricket! Skipper Mashrafee, and his band of stars, glorified our Nation in shinning color of grace and fame. Deepest Congratulations to our boys in Green and Red. Thank you Subir for a wonderful piece.

  5. Nazma Islam

    Not Rubel though! Don’t like him. He should get zero credit because of the scandal! Period.

  6. M.H.Kabir

    Thanks. Very well-thinking article.I think, at this stage , considering our weather, physical strength , etc , we should earmarked only 4/5 sports as starter , which have great potential.BKSP should be used properly to implement this plan and structures should be established in 6 Division so that they can arrange various tournament regularly.

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