Bangladesh World T20 venues make progress
The construction work of stadiums in Sylhet and Cox's Bazar for next year's World Twenty20 will be completed by mid-October, said BCB president Nazmul Hassan. The expected finishing time is likely to exceed the ICC's September 30 deadline but an inspection team from the governing body is likely to see enough evidence of progress buy the BCB the extra 15 days.
The ICC team arrives in Dhaka on Friday, and will visit both cities as well as the two alternative venues in Fatullah and BKSP, Bangladesh's largest sports institute.
"I have no doubt that the construction work will end by mid-October," Hassan said. "We will finish the alternative venues [in Fatullah and BKSP] by September. So I don't think there will be too many difficulties, but it is unlikely to be finished by September 30."
A visit by ESPNcricinfo earlier this week showed the Sylhet stadium has made significant progress since work began in June. The structure of two floors of the four-storey pavilion building has been completed. Located on the northern end of the ground, the building is directly linked to the main entrance from the airport road.
On the opposite side, the interiors of the media structure are being refurbished, and work has gone on at a rapid pace there as well. A hill, on the north-west part of the ground, is being carved to be at the same level as the one-tiered galleries on either side. It is being called the green gallery, and will be a grass bank on top of the hill.
Around 400 workers have been employed for the project, with the contractors being strictly told to work around the clock by the country's finance minister AMA Muhith, whose hometown is Sylhet. He has visited the ground a number of times since work started, and has directed all authorities to cooperate with the BCB and National Sports Council, the custodian of all sporting venues in the country.
The cricket committee of Sylhet's Divisional Sports Association has also helped in the project, although they have no direct authority of the stadium or the construction work. They are acting as a conduit in various ways, like making sure each of the two roads and walkways are built around the ground.
Shafiul Alam, the committee's chairman, was hopeful that the stadium will be completed on time for the World T20 which begins on March 16 next year, and the inspection team that arrives in Sylhet on August 20, will see a lot more than what they saw in June.
"Work has progressed significantly over the last two months," he said. "When it first started, I couldn't imagine that it would come to this stage. Now there is the grandstand, the media centre and the green gallery that will be completed. The floodlight towers are almost done too. At this rate, all of this will be done in time. When the inspection team comes next week, I am quite sure they will be surprised by the progress.
"The people of Sylhet are very interested to see this ground being completed," Shafiul added. "Hundreds visit the stadium everyday just to have a glimpse of the progress. So it has to be finished in time. It has become a matter of our region's pride."
ESPNcricinfo understands that BCB's initial aim of hosting at least one match of the New Zealand series in October in Sylhet has been shelved, but it is likely to be ready for the Sri Lanka series in January as an audition for the World T20.
Down south in Cox's Bazar, the boundary wall at the newly-built cricket ground by the beach has been put up while the playing surfaces and the outfield have already been prepared. The only work pending is on the prefabricated pavilions and other facilities.
The inspection team will be in Bangladesh two months after their last assessment in which they held concerns over the completion of the Sylhet and Cox's Bazar venues. It prompted the BCB, the National Sports Council and the related ministries into quick action as they used a large number of workers in both venues to hasten the developments.
Among the two alternate venues, the Fatullah Stadium has seen its drainage facility upgraded. It was constructed a decade ago for the 2004 Under-19 World Cup, and has also hosted Tests and ODIs. The other back-up venue is at the BKSP, where its main cricket ground hosted matches of last year's Women's World Cup qualifiers.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here