Player strike - 100 days: Have things changed in Bangladesh cricket?

Nazmul Hassan has a word with Tamim Iqbal during a training session Raton Gomes/BCB

It has been 100 days since Bangladesh's cricketers went on strike protesting against the BCB, demanding changes in the way the game was being run in the country. It was a big moment all right, but how were the demands eventually addressed? Here's a review.

Revamping the players' association

Demand: The players wanted the top brass of the Cricketers' Welfare Association of Bangladesh (CWAB) to step down immediately as president Naimur Rahman and vice-president Khaled Mahmud were both BCB directors. The players wanted to vote to elect future committees.

Action: The players have only had brief discussions with CWAB, but there has not been any concrete decisions yet. According to sources, the players haven't followed up, and the old CWAB is still in place.

Open market player transfer

Demand: The Dhaka Premier League must go back to its former system, where players had the option of choosing the teams they wanted to play for and could negotiate their salaries with the clubs; the pending payments from the DPL should be cleared by the stipulated time.

Action: At least for the 2019-20 season, the DPL clubs agreed to the open market system. The open market policy is perfect for players as they get the amount they want, or at least have the option of trying to get it, but it is hard to imagine the clubs agreeing to those amounts in the foreseeable future. Also, club cricket financing is shifting from large donations to corporate houses coming into the business, which has shrunk budgets.

BPL's franchise model

Demand: The Bangladesh Premier League must go back to its earlier franchise-based model - and not be run by the BCB as was the case in the last edition - and local players must be allowed to have similar base prices as overseas players.

Action: The BCB is committed to bringing back the franchise model in the 2020-21 season, but the only way for players to have higher base prices is for player representatives, preferably through CWAB, to put forth their proposals professionally. If the arbitrariness in the process remains, the BCB is unlikely to push do much about it.

First-class salary restructure

Demand: The salaries in first-class cricket have been on the low side; they must be increased to Taka 1 lakh (US$ 1200 approx.) per match - a hike of around 300%.

Action: Within five days of the players calling off the strike, the BCB raised the match fees for the players of the Tier 1 National Cricket League teams by 71% (Taka 35,000 to 60,000), and Tier 2 cricketers' match fees rose by 50% (Taka 25,000 to 50,000). The travel allowance for both tiers has been increased too: from Taka 2500 to 3500 for travel by land while airfare would be covered by the BCB entirely. Their daily allowance was increased by 67%, from Taka 1500 to Taka 2500.

While these amounts didn't increase to the levels demanded by the players, it was seen as a sign of the BCB listening to them. But here, too, a proper progressive fee structure is only possible when the players' body puts forth their proposals in a proper way.

Infrastructure development

Demands: Gyms, indoor nets, grounds, etc must be improved across the country, and the teams should have round-the-year coaches and physios. Quality of balls and daily allowances to players must also improve, and the team hotels must be above one- or two-star standards, with gyms and swimming pools; salaries of groundspersons, local coaches, umpires, physios and trainers must be raised.

Action: The BCB has plans to upgrade all the stadiums in the country, but other infrastructural changes can only happen with the cooperation of the regional cricket association system, which remains only a pilot project for the board. At the time the players had demanded better payment for groundspersons, coaches, umpires, etc, the BCB had confirmed that these employees do get increments periodically.

Central contracts

Demands: The number of centrally-contracted players must be increased to 30, and the retainers should go up too; when free of national or domestic duties, players must be allowed more than two NOCs to play in overseas franchise leagues.

Action: The BCB has raised Test match fees, from US$ 4000 to US$ 7000, the first hike in three years. The ODI and T20I fees have also gone up for the year 2020, while the BCB is expected to announce the first red- and white-ball contracts, which has been regarded as a progressive step for the players. The BCB, however, hasn't said anything about giving the national cricketers more than two NOCs for overseas franchise leagues.

Cricket calendar

Demands: There are two domestic first-class tournaments, but one each for one-day cricket and T20 cricket - one more one-day and T20 tournament must be introduced. A proper calendar for domestic tournaments must be put in place too.

Action: There has not been any increase in the number of domestic tournaments for the 2019-20 season, as the BCB continues to schedule competitions on the fly. The latest example was the Bangladesh Cricket League first-class tournament, which was rescheduled after the DPL clubs refused to play the List A competition without the top players.