The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) began its journey in a small room of the Bangabandhu Cricket Stadium. There was no power connection in the room and at night, the then officials worked under candlelight. The organisers paid for most expenses from out of their pockets.
Over time though, things gradually changed. The BCB office is now at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur. The governing body of cricket in the country is now the fifth richest cricket board in the world.
The BCB President Nazmul Hassan a few weeks ago said the total assets of the BCB was around Tk900 crore. Including FDRs (Fixed Deposit Receipt) in the 2019-20 financial year, bank balance, cash in hand and surplus earnings (latest financial year calculation is not final yet) the total assets of the BCB stood at Tk832.68 crore, confirmed a BCB official.
The stories of the early struggles now sound like a fairytale.
The BCB had fixed deposits worth Tk545 crore till the 2019-20 financial year. During the same financial year, BCB's total earnings from different sectors was nearly 333 crore, with a net surplus of nearly 53 crore. The previous fiscal, the board earned more than Tk308 crores.
Even during the pandemic, while everyone struggled, BCB sat comfortably on their earnings and instead lent out a helping hand to some others.
The BCB donated around Tk4 crore to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, treatment of current and former players, umpires association, and several other sectors. The salaries of more than 400 officers and employees, including the coaching staff, were regular during the pandemic and no one had to lose their job.
All these raise a very important question: With so much money to spare, what is BCB doing to improve the state of our domestic cricket?
After all, it has time and again been argued by all and sundry that for Bangladesh to become a giant in international cricket, the domestic cricket structure needs a full overhaul. BCB, judging by the size of their kitty, clearly has the resources to do it.
When it comes to domestic cricket, everything is still very Dhaka-centric, and a regional cricket association is yet to materialise despite years of discussion. All the teams are usually formed in Dhaka. There is very little competition in local tournaments. The National Cricket League is mockingly labelled 'picnic cricket' by many.
Neither the Dhaka Premier League nor the Bangladesh Cricket League have reached a respectable international standard. The board does not share its earnings with domestic clubs, like some boards do. Add to that, questions remain about whether domestic cricketers are paid enough (a typical domestic player's earnings from four local tournaments is roughly the same as the earning of a Ranji Trophy player); the quality of wickets and the quality of umpiring.
The Business Standard (TBS) asked Aminul Islam Bulbul, a former Bangladesh captain and now the ICC's development officer, about this.
"I don't live in the country but I see in the international media that Shakib Al Hasan kicks the stumps and gets away with it. The whole world then gets to know about the standard of our domestic cricket," he said.
"I noticed a boy conceding 90 runs in an over in local cricket. I don't see a boy scoring 300 runs."
"I don't see a bunch of cricketers coming through the ranks or new clubs who have all the necessary facilities being formed. All the teams still practice in the academy field. I saw a video of a domestic cricketer saying in front of the camera that he knows what the result of the match will be. All these simply prove where our domestic cricket stands," Bulbul added.
In the 2018-19 financial year, BCB spent 23 crore 47 lakh 36 thousand 826 takas on cricket development.
When asked whether the expenditure was on par with income, Aminul Islam said, "Development is a big sector. The development of players, coaches and umpires is linked here. I don't really know where the work is being done. As far as I know, there are no coaching courses. Whether the cost is right depends on what programs are run by the BCB and how much the budget is."
Nazmul Abedin Fahim, who has been with the BCB for 14 years in various roles and is currently BKSP's cricket adviser, said, "I think it is important to make the clubs and first-class team financially stronger so that they can create an ideal environment. The facilities where first-class cricket is held have not improved. Our clubs who play List A cricket do not have that financial ability (to provide the facilities). All the other countries who play cricket at the highest level can provide all these to their players."
"We do not have any analysts in List A or First-Class cricket. We always try to give everything of the best quality to the national team. But there is almost nothing provided to the stage from where the players will emerge. BCB has to work on this. More investment is needed in our domestic circuit. The field and wickets need to be made better," Fahim added.
Nazmul Abedin does not think BCB's expenditure on cricket development is enough.
"It's not enough for us because we have nothing," he said.
"Even what we have in Dhaka is not enough and there is nothing outside Dhaka. It would not even cost a lot of money to create the necessary facilities outside Dhaka and it would actually bring down the expenses on facilities in Dhaka. You have to spend a huge amount of money on the gym, practice field and wickets when you have to create these from scratch. Let these be in many areas. I think a lot more should be invested," Fahim added.
The BCB election will be held on October 6. Like in the previous two occasions, former captain Naimur Rahman Durjoy will be competing for the director's post again.
When he came to submit his nomination papers, he also mentioned the issue of insufficient expenditure in domestic cricket.
"The work of the Chattogram Cricket Association has started. Work is going on in Chattogram and Sylhet. I personally think there was a time before when there were limitations. But the board is in a much better place now. We should go beyond these issues (saving money and FDRs) and spend more on the development of regional cricket and the development of the cricket academy," Durjoy said.