South Zone coach lauds positive cricket
Khaled Mahmud, the South Zone coach, believes that an "improved body language" from the players on the fifth day was what helped his team clinch the Bangladesh Cricket League title. North Zone were chasing a massive 573 for victory, but a big stand between Nasir Hossain and Farhad Hossain in the final session of the penultimate day had given South Zone some nervous moments.
"We were upset with our body language on the fourth day," Mahmud said. "It was not up to the standard of a five-day game. Sohag Gazi had a back injury, so he couldn't bowl for long. My message this morning was to see that we are playing to win.
"We should be positive and attack. Our body language was good since morning. I had told young Mustafiz to bowl really fast for three overs, and it helped us."
Apart from two poor sessions on the fourth day, South Zone dominated most of the final despite getting bowled out for 271 in the first innings. They took a 36-run lead, having bundled North Zone out for 235 before Imrul Kayes' double-hundred and Mithun Ali's 126 ensured that South Zone were firmly in control of the match heading into the final day.
Mahmud also praised the captain Abdur Razzak's will to win despite being put in difficult positions, including the time when they had to win their last league phase game to ensure a place in the final. South Zone ended up beating East Zone by six wickets, while North Zone's 51-run victory over Central Zone also helped their cause.
"Imrul and Mithun batted us to a winning position with their big partnership," Mahmud said. "Still, the last evening was tense. Nasir and Farhad had that partnership, but Al-Amin gave us an early breakthrough this morning. Razzak has been confident throughout, particularly when we were not sure of making the final. He always had faith in his team."
Mahmud, also a BCB director, however said that a tournament like the BCL, which pits the country's best cricketers in a first-class tournament, has to take place during a better time in the cricket calendar. The tournament was hurriedly started in mid-January to provide the Bangladesh players match practice ahead of a two-Test series against Sri Lanka. The wickets at the BKSP weren't up to the standard as they had nothing in it for pace bowlers and spinners. When the tournament restarted in late April, the weather was too hot.
Mahmud said that to bring the National Cricket League up to BCL's standards, there had to be a concerted effort from the BCB, beginning with better playing surfaces as it would not only improve the standard of cricket, but also prepare young cricketers to be more comfortable at the international level.
"The BCL is a wonderful tournament, which should be held in better weather. I believe it can be improved in the future because it has the best players in the country pitted against each other," he said. "We have to think of quality first-class cricket, not quantity. If the quality of NCL can be raised, development is possible.
"We are preparing players for the national team, so you have to create circumstances to help them. In the first-class arena in Bangladesh, 10% of the bowling is by fast bowlers who bowl at 130kph. In the international level, it is exactly the opposite - 90% is bowled by fast bowlers, at 140kph. You cannot blame the boys, so we must work on putting out better wickets. We can do it slowly, but it should start soon so that we can have them in place in the next couple of years."
The South Zone franchise is run by Prime Bank, which also owns a Dhaka Premier League club. Since the BCL has been conceived with a zonal focus, Prime Bank has been put in charge of bringing elite cricketers from the Khulna and Barisal divisions. Although they haven't started working at a lower level in the country's southwest region, Mahmud said the bank has already asked the BCB for a ground where they can set up an academy.
"We still haven't had a scope of working in that area. Prime Bank is trying to build an academy somewhere around Dhaka, possibly in Pubail," Mahmud said. "We have also asked BCB for a stadium on lease where we can set up an academy. It could be in Khulna where there already is a setup."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84