Sylhet wins, Cox's Bazaar misses out
The ICC has retained Sylhet as one of the venues for next year's World Twenty20, after being convinced by the BCB that the stadium will be ready in time. There is still some development work left at the stadium, but the extended deadline of November 30 is being seen as adequate time to complete the work.
Sylhet has been given 28 matches, the most for one venue in this tournament, which includes 22 women's matches and six from the men's first round, which were to be played in Cox's Bazaar. But the coastal town was shelved as a venue as its playing surface is brand new and untested.
With 16 men's and 10 women's teams, this is the biggest tournament in its history. But the dropping of the Cox's Bazaar venue means that the 60 matches of both the tournaments will be crammed into just three grounds, one of which is still incomplete.
But there has been significant progress at the Sylhet venue since work started belatedly in June. The main pavilion building and the media centre on opposite sides of the ground have been completed structurally, but there is interior work still to be done. The floodlights have been installed while the green gallery, a small hill on the east of the pavilion, needs its seating arrangement to be made more spectator-friendly.
BCB president Nazmul Hassan said he is confident that they can complete the pending work well before time, but cautioned that the board cannot prevent the ICC from deciding on alternative venues if the work isn't completed on time.
"The basic structures [in Sylhet] are completed," BCB president Nazmul Hassan said. "The finishing touches are going on. We still have lot of work to do. It is a huge stadium and we also have some landscaping left to do. We are confident of doing it in time.
"[But] there is always a possibility to move matches from one country to another or from one stadium to another. Everything depends on whether we can get the stadiums prepared by the time we committed to. If we don't do it, it will go to the alternate venues. Our advantage is that we have alternate venues. But I won't negotiate for this with the ICC anymore. I have promised them that we will finish it by November 20 [the official deadline is November 30], I can assure you we can do it by November 10."
Hassan said that work in Sylhet should have begun long time ago but it was stalled because the National Sports Council (NSC) took extra time to complete the tendering process. "The Sylhet stadium was not directly done by the BCB but by the NSC. The tender should have started at least nine months back.
"You can't ask us to finish a nine-month task in two months, and we couldn't. So we asked the ICC for another one month. A lot of work has been done. The entire process started too late."
The ICC will use all three venues - Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet - for the 35 men's matches, including the first round that will be held from March 16 to 21. Dhaka's Shere Bangla National Stadium will host 17 matches in all, and the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong will host 14 games.
But what should have been one of the tournament's biggest attractions, the Cox's Bazaar Stadium by the world's longest beach, will now only host practice matches. The land was acquired quite late and only happened after the country's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina intervened earlier this year. There was never going to be enough time to build a stadium from scratch in such a short timeframe, and although it was almost achieved, there was not enough time to test the pitches.
Hassan, though, said the warm-up games needed venues too. "It is not only the World Twenty20 matches but there will be a lot of practice matches for both tournaments. We cannot [overuse] the three [main] venues, so these practice matches will be spread around.
"We initially thought that the women's matches will be held in Cox's Bazaar. It is fully ready but the pitches have not been tested. There has never been a cricket match played on those wickets. To start a World Cup on completely unused pitches is a big risk."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here