Cricket, the most popular game in Bangladesh, has gradually transformed from a source of entertainment to a matter of emotional attachment. Consequently, viewership has increased dramatically over the years and so has sponsorship deals. This surge of money in the game has enhanced the standard of living for the players of this game. Some cricketers have even achieved international recognition with their performance. All in all, such fame across the cricketing world along with the financial benefits have made cricket a lucrative career choice for the young generation nowadays.
Fitness enhancement, skills development, psychological stability, firm determination, hardworking attitude, etc. are what needs to be grown from an early stage of career to be a professional cricketer. Fulfilling such objectives at an individual level is too much to ask for. Therefore, the role of sports centres and academies becomes magnanimous for the upbringing of a potential talent.
Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP), the sole government funded national sports institute of Bangladesh, is the pioneer in rendering long term systematic training to the sports potentials of different age groups. BKSP has been the home of many superstars starting from Naimur Rahman Durjoy to all the way through Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Abdur Razzak, Mominul Haque, and so on. Even the U19 World Cup winning team of Bangladesh had nine players including the skipper Akbar Ali from BKSP. Quite understandably, BKSP is at the centre of attention for any young athlete aiming at a career in cricket.
BKSP runs its admission procedure every December. Students aged not more than 13 or 14 years can get themselves admitted in class six, seven or eight. The admission procedure consists of two steps--primary selection and final selection. A candidate is considered for the latter only after successfully passing the former. The primary selection comprises age verification, medical test, fitness test, and basic cricket skill test. The final selection encompasses a five-day training camp followed by a practical test, written test and Sports Science test.
The practical test observes physical fitness, techniques and tactics, and game observation. The written test contains questions from Bangla, English, Mathematics, and General Knowledge. Practical test holds 70 marks, while the written test contains 20 marks, and the Sports Science test covers 10 marks. After the final selection and upon being admitted, there starts long term systematic training. Students will continue to be part of BKSP till HSC level. Based on their performance, players are subject to get called for national age level squads.
However, since the number of seats in BKSP is very limited, many raw talents get missed out in the selection process. Besides, many players also develop over time but can no longer apply for BKSP due to the age restrictions. Moreover, some parents may feel reluctant to let their children live away from them at BKSP. For such cases, the cricket academies operating all over the country play a vital role in expanding training facilities at a larger scale.
Mohammad Faysal, a cricketer with 3rd division experience, shared his positive attitude towards academies. In his words, "Unlike BKSP, cricket academies have many cricketers playing together. Therefore, it is important to stand out among others in order to catch the eyes of the coaches."
Cricket academies have great importance for the young players as academies can help them gain fitness, learn techniques, create game sense, and so on. Admission into such institutions does not contain any rigorous process. Players can ensure personal development through regular training and guidance from the coaches.
"BKSP is unique with its cadet-like strict rules and restrictions. However, academies also offer ample opportunities. Players have gone on to play Dhaka Premier League from the academy I play in," said Monjurul Morshed Mithun, another young talent who plays at Bangla Trac Cricket Academy and dreams to wear the national jersey one day.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has a robust talent-hunting development programme in operation that provides the potential players with an opportunity to showcase their talents, an opening that can lead to the selection in the national age level squads. Players like Mustafizur Rahman, Mehidy Hasan, Mosaddek Hossain, Nazmul Hossain Shanto and many others have been outputs of this nationwide system.
This development programme can be an amazing platform for players who are receiving training in different academies. Eye-catching performance in the academy can lead them to represent teams at age level inter-district competitions and then gradually at age level divisional tournaments. Consistency in these levels can lead to selection in the three-team challenger series, played by the best age-group players in the country.
Be it BKSP or a cricket academy, coaches are key to the success of the cricketers. Mohammad Salahuddin, the mentor of many Bangladeshi superstars such as Shakib, Mushfiq, Tamim, Mominul and many more faces, is a very common name in the cricket circuit of Bangladesh. M Tawhidur Rahman, a member of Rising Cricket Academywho has been training under a coach for several years now, emphasised this fact as well.
"Behind every player playing at higher levels, there is a significant contribution of a coach - not just teaching cricket, but providing opportunities to play matches in district level competitions or, for instance, bowl as a net bowler in major tournaments like BPL. Whenever someone possesses talent, a coach is the person who provides him/her with the exposure required."
Should anyone has the talent and determination to absorb the hard work and pain, several options and opportunities are awaiting him/her.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU). Email: [email protected]