A local coach has found an innovative way to deal with the lack of funds and support for women's cricket in Bangladesh. Muslim Uddin, who runs a training camp at the Shaheed Chandu Stadium in Bogra, a district town situated 200km north of Dhaka, has settled upon a toilet in the stadium to be his office and equipment storeroom.
Muslim, an assistant coach under the Bogra Sports Association, has been running this camp for the last 11 years. The camp was initially backed by the district women's sports body but after they pulled out of the programme, such was his commitment that he continued the training camp on his own volition. And with some success too - he has so far produced international cricketers such as Khadija Tul Kubra, Ritu Moni and Sharmin Akhter.
Women's cricket is still in its nascent stages in Bangladesh, with only a handful of districts like Bogra, Khulna, Rangpur, Gaibandha and Jessore thought to be serious about it. Dhaka, the capital, also has a few women's cricket training academies. Bogra stands out, mainly because of Muslim.
The toilet, as described in a Prothom Alo report earlier this week, is about 35-40 square feet in area. It has three stalls and a couple of sinks and mirrors. Bats, balls, stumps, nets and pads rest on top of the toilet seats while a vase adorns the flush tank. Pictures of cricketers hang on the wall. The sink is filled with cricket balls.
"We had another room which we had to give up," Muslim told Prothom Alo. "I asked for this toilet as it wasn't being used. My players and I really did a good job organising this room. We have been keeping our things here for the last three years."
Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, BCB's high performance manager now in charge of women's cricket, said characters like Muslim were making a difference in the development of women's cricket in Bangladesh.
"I know Muslim personally," he said. "Thankfully, he is not externally motivated, but internally motivated. He is happy at seeing his players develop into club-level and international-level cricketers."
Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh selector who was on duty in Bogra during a first-class match last week, said Muslim's ingenuity at making catching bats and nets and other equipment for batting training was impressive.
"What he has so thoughtfully produced is very useful," Bashar said. "I am surprised to see that these can be made locally. I don't see much of a difference between what he has made and what the international teams even use."
It is estimated that currently around 300 female players take part in at least some training at all levels in Bangladesh, with 22 clubs in Dhaka running a two-tier league system. The BCB also has an eight-team division-level competition, and is now hoping to begin an Under-18 programme at the division level to create a pathway for budding cricketers.