BCB president Nazmul Hasan and women's wing chairman Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel spoke exclusively with Dhaka Tribune regarding women's cricket in Bangladesh, its past and future, and the board's initiatives to encourage the young girls to take up the game
Women’s cricket in Bangladesh is being expected to take a giant leap after the national team’s unprecedented achievement of winning the ACC Asia Cup T20I earlier this month. Bangladesh women cricketers had travelled to Malaysia in early June with the ambition of playing the final of the six-nation regional tournament but astonishingly, the Tigresses ended up lifting the trophy, riding on five consecutive wins after losing their opening game. The women in red and green defeated six-time Asia Cup champion India in the final by three wickets to spark wild celebrations back home.
Following the historic achievement by the team, all focus of the nation shifted to women’s cricket in the country while greater responsibility came upon the BCB. However, the attention of the mass soon turned to finding differences in operations of the men’s and women’s team, and to some extent, the board has been accused of providing superior facilities to the male cricketers, compared to that of the women. Salary structure, practice facilities and efforts put behind the women’s wing have been at the core of discussions.
With the time just about right, Dhaka Tribune reached out to BCB president Nazmul Hasan and the women’s cricket wing chairman Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel to find out what the board is actually doing for the girls.
The Celebration!— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) June 10, 2018
Photo : Asian Cricket Council pic.twitter.com/1hZQoT2JIt
Efforts being made to develop women’s cricket
The BCB believes Bangladesh’s success in the Asia Cup has come from combined efforts from the board and the cricketers. According to BCB boss Nazmul, it was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who had instructed the board to focus on women’s cricket as she believed it has huge potential.
Nazmul admitted that the national team do not get to play much international but that is down to the ranking of the team and other factors. Despite all odds, the BCB claims to have put enough effort to expose the cricketers to the best of the competitions and prepare them for the tough stage of international cricket. Since 2012, Bangladesh women’s team have played nine bilateral series, with six of them taking place under the current board.
The team also participated in two World T20Is and other ICC events, played in the Asia Cup, and won silver in the 2010 Asian Games.
“Speaking of the national support staff, women’s team always had local coach. But we looked into foreign options when we took charge of the board. We got coach from Sri Lanka, England and other places. But there was a challenge, the girls were not being able to communicate properly. So for that, we thought of getting a coach from India in the shape of Anju Jain, who used to be the Indian women’s team coach. Having been able to get an India national team coach for Bangladesh is a big thing in itself. Physio was a big concern, girls were not comfortable going to a male physio so we now got an Australia certified woman physio from India,” said Nazmul.
According to Nazmul, the team’s profile had a big boost after the Asia Cup success and the board intends to bank on this particular triumph. The board is currently busy drafting a busy international calendar with the immediate assignment being the Ireland tour this week, followed by the World T20I Qualifiers in the Netherlands.
“So it is not right that we are not thinking of our girls, we are trying. But it has a long way to go. The structure for cricket for women cricketers in the country has a long way to go. We went to so many schools to encourage young girls to play the game, but hardly got any response. There is no cricket competition for women, apart from Dhaka. We had a few girls coming from Khulna and Rangpur,” said Nazmul.
“The win in the Asia Cup is a huge plus point for us because I believe this will grow interest among girls to play the game. We have already taken initiative to introduce competition in different levels for the girls and will continue to encourage many to get involved in the structure. Only through this can we form a good women’s team in future,” the BCB chief added.
How much do they actually earn?
Salary structure of women cricketers in Bangladesh has been widely discussed. Difference in monthly salary and match fees between the top men and women cricketers is vast but BCB supremo Nazmul has an explanation for that. The issue was first highlighted last year after the match fee of Tk600 in the National Cricket League got revealed. According to Nazmul, such comparison can never be made with international cricket.
The BCB first introduced central contracts for women cricketers back in 2008, two years after the women’s wing was formed. And as years passed, this has only developed with the latest structure having five different Grades - A, B, C, D and E.
“The BCB never had salary for women cricketers until 2008. Along with the introduction of the women’s wing, salary structure came in but it was not in effect. Only three cricketers were brought into the salary structure to encourage other cricketers, given that there was no professional data on ranking of the cricketers that time. That time, women’s cricket was more of an occasion or weekend cricket,” said Nazmul to Dhaka Tribune.
Nazmul informed that the BCB women’s wing had a major overhaul in 2014 when the current BCB committee took charge.
“We made an effort to make it more professional and structural. Salary was increased by Taka 10, 000 in all categories and more grades were introduced in the salary system, which now has Grade A right down to Grade E. For doing that, we had to find out information of the players, bring them into the system, and eventually this helped us in making a team. There is still huge crisis in women’s cricket to be honest, and not enough players are coming in. With the boys, there are different layers of competition to find out the talent, like school cricket, age-level cricket and other domestic competitions. But for women’s cricket, there is no structure yet. There just used to be one Dhaka League for the girls but that also hardly had any standard. Only Abahani Limited and Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited used to make good teams and the result always used to go in their favour. Other teams were never in the competition,” said Nazmul.
Apart from the salary, the women cricketers have been earning match fees, daily allowances and tour fees during international series and tournaments. Around 50 cricketers are contracted with the board and have the opportunity to earn between Tk 4.5 lakhs to 7 lakhs per year from the board only.
The Premier Division is also a good source of earning for the cricketers, considering the clubs have now started spending more. Total spending of Tk 3 lakhs per team has now gone up to Tk 30 lakhs, meaning that the top cricketers earn a minimum of Tk 4 lakhs from the tournament.
Introduction of the First Division League last year has also turned into a platform for the cricketers to make earning.
“It is true that the men cricketers earn a lot more than the women. But unfortunately, it is the same around the world. Virat Kohli earns around Indian Rupees 7 crore, which is a way lot more than their women’s team captain, who earns some Rs 50 lakhs a year. It is the same in England, Australia or anywhere else. The men’s team played very bad recently (against Afghanistan) but that does not mean Tamim [Iqbal], Mushfiqur [Rahim], Shakib [al Hasan] or Mashrafe [bin Mortaza] should be compared with the women cricketers. We cannot compare any woman cricketer with a high profile male player. It is very wrong to do that,” the BCB boss explained.
Future plans for women’s cricket
Having won the Asia Cup, backed by wins against Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia and India (twice), opportunity is huge for the BCB to boost women’s cricket in Bangladesh. According to BCB director Nadel, the board’s main focus is to enrich the pipeline by attracting and encouraging girls to pick up the game.
The BCB allocates a yearly budget of Tk 10 crore for women’s cricket and plans to unearth fresh young talents through school and age-level cricket. Work on creating a comprehensive structure for the grass roots is already underway, informed Nadel.
2 needed from the last ball and Jahanara Alam keeps her nerve to clinch victory for Bangladesh!— AsianCricketCouncil (@ACCMedia1) June 10, 2018
Nigar Sultana Joty top scored with 27 (from 24 balls,4x4)
Rumana Ahmed- 23 (from 22 balls, 1x4)
Poonam Yadav with figures of 4/9 in her 4 overs for India. #INDvsBAN #WAC2018 #ACC pic.twitter.com/pRjlzqmCuq
“We will initially do this on a pilot basis this year in a few of the divisions. Apart from that, we also have plans to have regular camp to improve skill and experience of the national cricketers, by having a dedicated venue for them,” said Nadel to Dhaka Tribune.
“This can be anywhere in Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Rajshahi or any other place. It is not wise for them to have camps at different places every time. Having a dedicated venue for their camp will make them feel special and they can focus on their preparation,” the BCB director added.