Bangladesh's domestic season is facing chaos after leading players threatened to pull out of the National Cricket League unless the BCB increased their match fees and reverted back to the previous format of the four-day competition.
The dispute came about after the BCB altered the existing first-class competition. The number of games has been reduced but the match fees have been increased from 10,000 Taka (US$ 144) to 12,000 Taka (US$ 173). Per this modification, the finalists will play nine matches while the two teams who fail to quality for the Super Four stage will play five matches, which is five less than the previous home-and-away format.
The changes have not gone down well with the country's players, not least the leading internationals such as Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan. The Cricketers' Welfare Association of Bangladesh (CWAB) demanded that match fees be fixed at 35,000 Taka (US$ 505) for four-day games, 20,000 Taka (US$ 288) for one-day games, and 10,000 Taka or Twenty20 games. Aside from the issue of remuneration, CWAB also demanded reinstatement of the original format, and the league, which is due to start on January 1, now faces postponement by four days.
"Considering the proposals, cricketers have decided to refrain from playing the upcoming National Cricket League until their demands are met," CWAB general secretary Debobroto Paul said at a press conference in Dhaka. "To ascertain cricketers' interest in different matters, we carried out a survey amongst the first-class cricketers last year and we informed the outcomes of the survey to the tournament committee chairman [Gazi Ashraf Hossain] and BCB's senior vice-president [Mahbub Anam], both of whom expressed their inability to implement our proposals.
"We then requested them to fix match fees considering that of other Test playing nations and our socio-economical condition or to fix match fees in line with the number of matches first-class cricketers played. But the meeting ended without any directive or promise," said Paul.
"We also let them know the cricketers' disapproval of the new format. We believe that when the experts prefer to play more longer-version games in a bid to improve cricket, the introduction of a new format that will reduce the number of first-class matches will hinder the development of cricket. Later we even tried to meet the BCB president and cricket operations chairman but failed to get any response from the board."
Naimur Rahman, the former Bangladesh captain turned CWAB president, was present at the press conference along with leading national players Shakib, Ashraful, Shahadat Hossain, Mahbubul Alam, Nafees Iqbal, Enamul Haque jnr, Tushar Imran, Alok Kapali, Hannan Sarkar, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar, Mohammad Sharif, Faisal Hossain, and Tareq Aziz.
According to Naimur, the crop of budding players in Bangladesh could lose interest due to a lack of monetary incentive. "We are not here for any movement, we have come here to request the authority concerned to meet our proposals through you because we had earlier got no promise from the board which it was very disappointing," he said.
Added Ashraful: "We, who are playing in the national team, will continue with our national duties, but we will stick to our demands regarding the national league and we hope the authority will sit with us before the start of the national league.
"The last season's national league was very competitive only because of the increment in the match fees and the level of competitiveness in the league will step up as match fee is increased," said Shakib. "There is no alternative to first-class cricket if we want to improve our cricket."