Bangladesh's domestic cricketers have been driven into more financial uncertainty after BCB president Nazmul Hassan said on Saturday that the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh would determine whether they can allow the Dhaka Premier League to take place in the coming months. In March, the outbreak of the coronavirus had forced the domestic one-day competition for the 2019-20 season to be postponed, and as the situation deteriorated in the country, it affected livelihood of the majority of cricketers.
The BCB directly employs around 108 cricketers through 16 central and 92 first-class contracts. But with no cricket since March, those who only play the DPL, a 12-team competition that sits atop the Dhaka league system, have had to make do with very little payments from their clubs and the BCB in the last four months. With the 2020-21 season now drawing nearer, the hope of holding the 2019-20 season's competition is all but over.
According to batsman Shahriar Nafees, it might not be possible to stage two DPL tournaments in the upcoming season. "There's usually one Dhaka Premier League every year, so if it doesn't happen this year, I don't think there will be two DPLs next year," Nafees told ESPNcricinfo. "That will put all the players in financial uncertainty. DPL is our main source of income."
Apart from the DPL, all other tournaments across the country, mostly unsanctioned but highly popular one-day and T20 competitions, were also called off due the pandemic. For the average DPL cricketer, that meant no extra income, which usually complements the main payment from the club.
Bangladesh's sports ministry announced last week that sporting activities could start on a limited scale but Hassan, who also heads one of the country's largest pharmaceutical companies, was clear that the situation wasn't good enough for a cricket tournament or even a training camp without utmost precaution. The overall situation may put the 2020-21 domestic season also in jeopardy.
Left-arm spinner Enamul Haque jnr said that most uncontracted players had to settle for a very low income in 2020 as a result of all the postponed tournaments. "Some of us senior cricketers may be able to manage but it is a major cause for concern for the large number of players who only play the DPL. It has been a tough year for many players because apart from two or three clubs, most of the players have had to make do with only 10-15% of their total payment."
Haque, who played for Prime Doleshwar Sporting Club in the 2019-20 DPL, said that now all hopes were pinned on the likelihood of the NCL, the first-class competition, which could be held in October to kick off the 2020-21 season.
"The BCB has been really helpful during the pandemic, and they have genuinely tried to bring back cricket," Haque said. "We are pinning our hopes on playing the NCL in October, about which I read in the newspaper recently. They may hold it at two venues and in total lockdown. If that happens, it might help bring back cricket."
The BCB are currently hoping that their planned Sri Lanka tour, both for the senior men's team and the High Performance side goes off without a hitch. It will keep the majority of Bangladesh's top cricketers engaged from September to November.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84