Sports Opinion

History of cricket in Bangladesh

Shahriar Hossain faced Bangladesh’s first ever ball in Tests bowled by India’s Javagal Srinath

Cricket is the most popular sport in Bangladesh. There is a strong domestic league which on many occasions also saw Test players from many countries (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and England) gracing the cricket fields of Bangladesh.

In the year 2000 Bangladesh became a Full Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), which allows the national team to play Test cricket.

The Bangladesh national cricket team goes by the nickname of the Tigers –Bangladesh is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. At present among the most popular cricket players in Bangladesh are Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. Becoming champion in the 2020 Under-19 Cricket World Cup is the country’s biggest cricketing achievement.

History of country and her cricket

The history of cricket in Bangladesh predates the foundation of the Bangladeshi state in 1971, by nearly two centuries. Cricket was introduced to Bengal by the British in the 18th Century but its growth in East Bengal was slow.

After the decline of the British Bengal Presidency, the borders of modern Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal in August 1947 at the time of partition of India. Then the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan.

Later the rise of a pro-democracy movement thrived on Bengali nationalism and self-determination, leading to the Liberation War and eventually resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent nation in 1971.

First unofficial Test of Bangladesh of 1977 and gaining Test status in 2000

Following partition and the creation of East Pakistan, both first-class and Test cricket were played there during the 1950s and 1960s. Although cricket continued to be popular after independence, especially in Dhaka, the country lost first-class status and had to establish itself in international competition as an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Independent Bangladesh’s international cricket began in 1976/77 when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) came to play against the Bangladesh national side. MCC played their first match against a regional team in Rajshahi with the match ending in a draw. The first unofficial Test against the MCC was played at Dhaka on 4 January 1977. The Bangladesh national team then went on to play against teams like Sri Lanka, Deccan Blues, and MCC in the later years.

After winning the 1997 ICC Trophy and making a good showing at the 1999 Cricket World Cup, Bangladesh created its National Cricket League (NCL) in 1999-2000 to prepare the way for full membership of the ICC. This was granted in 2000 and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) was formally established. In November 2000, the Bangladesh national team played its inaugural Test match against India at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka; India won by nine wickets.

Founding of first first-class tournaments

The 2000-01 season saw the beginning of first-class domestic competition in Bangladesh, although the country had already staged first-class matches against touring teams in the previous year. The Green Delta National Cricket League (NCL) was constituted as the first-class championship and the Ispahani Mirzapore Tea One-Day League as the premier limited-overs competition. In 2000-01, both titles were won by Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

The NCL had in fact been inaugurated in the 1999-2000 season but was not then first-class. In 2000-01, eight teams played 12 matches each in two groups. Group A consisted of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Chittagong Division, Rajshahi Division, and Dhaka Division. Group B had Dhaka Metropolis, Khulna Division, Barisal Division and Sylhet Division. Four teams qualified for a final stage in which they each played a further eight games. In 2001-02, Ispahani Mirzapore Tea became the sponsor of the NCL in addition to the One-Day League.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF BANGLADESH CRICKET IN BRIEF 

THE BRITISH ERA (1792-1947):

Sub-continental cricket in British era

Cricket flourished in Bengal during the British era. Centering Calcutta, cricket gained a lot of popularity among the general masses. This led to the evolution of cricket over the years in West Bengal as well as present Bangladesh

 1941 – Governor’s XI plays at Dacca Stadium

The earliest match of note in Dhaka was in February 1941 when a Bengal Governor’s XI played the Bengal Gymkhana at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, then called the Dacca Stadium

EAST PAKISTAN ERA (1947-1971)

1955 – The first “Test” in Bangladesh

After the partition of Bengal in 1947, matches of domestic cricket in Pakistan were conducted in four leagues. Regional East Bengali of the then Pakistan teams regularly took part in the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy from 1954 through 1968. 1955-69, there were seven international Test matches with Pakistan participating as the host team. The first Test was held there between Pakistan and India in January 1955. The match started on the first day of the year. The newly built Dacca Stadium then had the maximum capacity of accommodating 15,000 spectators

1960s – “Dacca” Stadium becomes a regular venue

The next match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium was played between Pakistan and New Zealand from 7-12 November the same year (1955). The third Test was played at the Bangabandhu between Pakistan and West Indies in March 1959. Then came Australia in the November of the same year under the leadership of Richie Benaud. The fifth Test at the Bangabandhu was played in January 1962 between Pakistan and England. The next match was also between Pakistan and England after seven years in February 1969. The last Test, between Pakistan and New Zealand, was played in November of the same year

BANGLADESH ERA (from 1971)

1972 – The Establishment of BCCB

The Bangladesh Cricket Control Board (BCCB) is established. Soon after, a cricket league commences in Dhaka and Chittagong. It is a slow start, with other things having priority in the war-torn country. Early in 1975, the Dhaka Stadium, then named Dacca Stadium, was still in disrepair, the square having sunk several inches and the Press Club shell-torn.

1974 – The first step in domestic cricket

A national level cricket tournament begins in the country. 1st division and 2nd division cricket leagues start at the districts level. Other tournaments that were organised included National Youth Cricket, Inter-university Cricket, College and School Cricket, Shahid Smriti Cricket, Damal Summer Cricket, and Star Summer Cricket.

1976 – MCC tours Bangladesh

Robin Marlar writes his famed article “Whither Bangladesh?”, a detailed description of Bangladesh cricket’s state of affairs and a yearning to see Bangladesh in the international stage. Bangladesh Cricket Board officials become more alert and enthusiastic after this international exposure. After the completion of the 1975-76 domestic season, BCCB’s Acting Secretary Reza-e-Karim writes to the ICC, then called the International Cricket Conference, requesting ICC membership status for Bangladesh. Reza-e-Karim drafts the first Constitution of the BCCB and in May 1976 invites the MCC to Bangladesh. In June 1976, the membership of Bangladesh is discussed in an ICC meeting. The meeting decides to finalise Bangladesh’s membership status after the MCC tours there. The MCC arrives at Dhaka for their first Bangladesh tour on 27 December 1976 and helps build the enthusiasm. Over 40,000 people attends the representative match played at Dacca

1977 – Bangladesh receives ICC Associate Membership

On 26 July, 1977, Bangladesh becomes an Associate Member of the ICC. The BCCB seeks coaching help from the MCC. The MCC sends Bangladesh her first foreign cricket coach, an Englishman named Robert Jones.

1978 – Sri Lanka visits, MCC revisits

In January, Sri Lanka, yet to be a Test team, tours Bangladesh. In December, the MCC arrives in Bangladesh for the second time in a tour that lasts until 14 January 1979.

1979 – Bangladesh plays ICC Trophy

Bangladesh appears in the first ICC trophy in England. Bangladeshis win matches against Fiji and Malaysia. Sri Lanka won the title and by doing so qualified to play in the 1977 ICC World Cup.

1980 – Pakistan tours, MCC keeps coming

In January, Pakistan tours Bangladesh for a two-day match in Chittagong and a three-day sellout match in Dacca. The MCC tours Bangladesh for the third time.

1982 – Bangladesh finishes 4th in ICC Trophy

An Indian first-class team, the Hyderabad Blues, boasting five Indian Test players, visits Bangladesh in January 1982. In May-July 1982, Bangladesh takes part in its second ICC Trophy competition and finishes fourth among 16 national teams. By then, Sri Lanka had achieved Test status (in 1981) to be the eighth country/region to get the recognition including South Africa, who had been isolated in sports by then due to the apartheid.

From 1987 to 1996: Hosting the 1988 Asia Cup

Bangladesh hosted the 1988 Asia Cup, competing against India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka in the first List A classified matches to be played in the country. Bangladesh were the rank outsiders and, as expected, were easily beaten by each of their three opponents. Gazi Ashraf again captained the team. Five of the tournament’s seven matches, including the final, were played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium and the other two, both involving Bangladesh themselves, at the M.A. Aziz Stadium in Chittagong. The tournament was won by India who defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final.

There were visits by the Hyderabad Blues and Denmark in January and February 1990 to play limited-overs games against the BCB XI and club sides only. None of those matches were List A classified. The 1990 ICC Trophy was held in the Netherlands in June and Bangladesh performed with credit, qualifying via two group phases for the semi-final where they were drawn against Zimbabwe. They lost by 84 runs. Zimbabwe, who won the tournament, were elected to ICC Full Member status soon afterwards. Bangladesh played in the 1990-91 Asia Cup in India but were well beaten in their two matches, by Sri Lanka and the host nation.

1992 SAARC Quadrangular

In December 1992, Bangladesh hosted a SAARC Quadrangular tournament in which their national team competed against the A-teams of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; all the matches being List A classified and all to be played in Dhaka at the National Stadium. Bangladesh defeated Sri Lanka A by seven wickets in the opening game but then lost by five wickets to Pakistan A. Their third match against India A was interrupted in the ninth over by a crowd riot and abandoned. It was rescheduled three days later but with the situation still volatile, it was cancelled along with the final which would have been India A v Pakistan A.

The situation was calmer the following season (1993-94) when there were short visits by Zimbabwe (in November) and Pakistan (January) to play two limited-overs matches each against the national team. Being friendlies, these games were not List A-classified. Zimbabwe won their matches by margins of nine and 13 runs. Pakistan won their two games by 62 runs and seven wickets. Although the national team were having limited success against opponents with greater experience, domestic cricket in Bangladesh was making progress and expanding. In 1994, the ICC estimated that there were 93,000 people playing cricket in Bangladesh and, as a result, playing standards were rising.

Gradual rise to the top

Bangladesh competed in the 1994 ICC Trophy in Kenya and reached the quarter-final stage and finished third in their group behind Kenya and the Netherlands. In December 1994, Bangladesh hosted a second SAARC Quadrangular against the A teams of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; all the matches being List A classified and all to be played in Dhaka’s National Stadium.

The problems of 1992 were not repeated and Bangladesh reached the final where they lost to India A by 52 runs. Kenya, one of Bangladesh’s main opponents in Associate Member cricket, visited in January 1995 to play five one-day matches. These were not List A classified and Bangladesh won all three. England’s A visited Bangladesh in February 1995 and played three double-innings matches, yet not first-class; all against the national team. England A won the first two and the third, in which Aminul Islam scored a century, was drawn. Bangladesh were in the 1995 Asia Cup in Sharjah against India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka but lost all three of their first-round matches. MCC returned in February 1996 to play a mixture of one-day and three-day matches.

1997 to 2000 – Bangladesh win 1997 ICC Trophy

Skipper Akram Khan lifts the ICC Trophy in 1997 after two heartbreaks in 1982 and 1990 tournaments where they lost in the semi-finals

The SAARC Quadrangular returned to Bangladesh in February 1997. Pakistan A defeating India A in the final. Bangladesh fared badly and were well beaten in all of their three matches. Disappointing as that was, only two months later Bangladesh had their first international success when they won the 1997 ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.

Bangladesh won all five of their matches in the tournament’s Group B to reach the quarter-finals, which were two more round-robin groups of four. Bangladesh qualified for the semi-finals defeating Netherlands and Hong Kong while the other game against Ireland was abandoned because of bad weather. In the semi-final, Bangladesh defeated Scotland by 72 runs. They were now playing in the final itself against Kenya, they won by two wickets, scoring the winning run from the last ball of the match.

The national team’s debut in official first-class cricket was 17-19 November 1997 at Seddon Park, Hamilton, New Zealand, against a Northern Conference team. Bangladesh were guesting in the 1997–98 Shell Conference. They lost this match by an innings and 151 runs and were similarly outclassed in their other matches in the tournament. In January 1998, Bangladesh hosted the List A-classified Coca-Cola Silver Jubilee Independence Cup involving India and Pakistan. They lost both their matches and India defeated Pakistan in the final.

Hosting 1998-99 ICC Konockout Trophy

In 1998-99, Bangladesh hosted the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy (known as the Wills International Cup) during October and November, as it was for Test nations only, they could not play themselves but provided a neutral venue for the event. South Africa won the tournament beating Sri Lanka in the final. During November, the West Indies A team visited and played three List A matches against Bangladesh, starting on 12 November.

The two teams played the first-ever first-class match in Bangladesh, since independence. West Indies A won by eight wickets. The final of the 1998-99 Asian Test Championship was also played at Dhaka in March 1999, Pakistan winning by an innings and 175 runs against Sri Lanka. Later that month, Bangladesh hosted Kenya and Zimbabwe for the List A Meril International Tournament, which was won convincingly by Zimbabwe.

1999 World Cup and gaining Test status

The Bangladesh team played in the Cricket World Cup for the first time, having qualified by winning the 1997 ICC Trophy, for the 1999 tournament in Great Britain. They did not get past the group stage but had a memorable victory by 62 runs over Pakistan

Their progress had received recognition and, on 26 June 2000, Bangladesh became a Full Member of the ICC, which enabled them to play Test cricket. The board officially changed its name to Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and its President Saber Chowdhury described his country’s elevation to Test status as “the third most historic event in our national life”.

In May-June 2000, Bangladesh had hosted the 2000 Asia Cup, won by Pakistan. In November of that year, Bangladesh played their first-ever Test match against India at the National Stadium, India winning by nine wickets.

2001 to 2010: Forming of first-class cricket structure

The country’s main domestic competition, the National Cricket League (NCL), began in 1999-2000 with teams from each of Bangladesh’s (then six) administrative divisions: Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Sylhet.

In 2000-01, its second season, the NCL became a first-class competition, sponsored by the Green Delta insurance company, and won by Biman Bangladesh Airlines. The 2000-01, the NCL involved eight teams playing 12 matches each in two groups. Four teams qualified for a final stage in which they each played a further eight games. Group A consisted of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Dhaka Division. Group B had Dhaka Metropolis, Khulna, Barisal, and Sylhet.

In 2001-02, Ispahani Mirzapore Tea became the sponsor of the NCL in addition to the new One-Day League, introduced as the premier limited-overs competition. The NCL was reduced to six teams in 2001-02 with Dhaka Metropolis and the champions, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, both dropping out. Following creation of Rangpur Division in January 2010 as the country’s seventh administrative region, the NCL in 2011-12 was again expanded to eight teams with the introduction of the Rangpur team and the return of Dhaka Metropolis, although the latter had no settled home venue.

Between 2001 and 2004, Bangladesh suffered from heavy defeats in ODIs. They also suffered from five heavy defeats and one no-result match in 2003 Cricket World Cup.

2011 to Present

The One-Day League was terminated after the 2010-11 season. The main List A limited-overs competition since then is the Dhaka Premier Division, which began in 2013-14.

Bangladesh co-hosted the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India and Sri Lanka. The country was the sole host of the 2014 ICC World Twenty20, the final of which was played at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium where Sri Lanka won the title beating India under Lasith Malinga. In addition, Bangladesh has hosted, in succession, the three Asia Cup tournaments in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Bangladesh also continued to do well in Test cricket. They have beaten England and Sri Lanka in 2016-17 session. The win against Sri Lanka was the 100th Test match and the ninth winning Test match for Bangladesh. A few months later they beat the Australian Test team in a match at Mirpur and drew the series

The Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL), another first-class competition, began in 2012-13. It is played by four teams selected on a zonal basis (North Zone, South Zone, East Zone, and Central Zone) to give experience to leading players of a higher standard than the NCL and so prepare them for Test cricket. The winners of the four championships to 2016 have been Central Zone and South Zone, winning two apiece. In April 2015, the BCL staged a One-Day League, which was won by East Zone.

The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) is the country’s main T20 competition. It was founded in January 2012 and, despite problems including match-fixing, it has been a commercial success. Its promoters boast it to be second only to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in terms of global revenue.

Main sources: Wikipedia and various Bangladesh cricket websites