Bangladesh’s first captain, Naimur, speaks on the eve of its 100th Test

The 42-year-old Naimur says that in the last 17 years not much has been done to promote the longer version of the game.

Bangladesh skipper Naimur Rahman (right) is greeted by Sourav Ganguly on the eve of his country's first-ever Test at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka in November 2000. ( FILE PHOTO)   -  V.V. Krishnan

The cricketing fraternity in Bangladesh stands divided every time there is a debate on the greatest captain of all time. The old-timers suggest the names of Akram Khan, Habibul Bashar. While, the younger generation mostly puts forward the cases of Mashrafe Murtaza or Mushfiqur Rahim. But then, there are no arguments when it comes to the contribution of Naimur Rahman Durjoy.

The former cricketer, who led Bangladesh in its first Test in 2000, is someone, who is mostly respected by both the generations. Whether he was successful as a captain comes into the discussion much later, but the fact that that Naimur actually inspired the team to put up a fight against a formidable Indian team, has already made it to the history books.

The 42-year-old Naimur, however, appears to be a bit disappointed as he speaks to Sportstar on Tuesday evening, ahead of Bangladesh’s historic 100th Test match against Sri Lanka. A member of Parliament and also a member of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), the country’s first Test captain says that in the last 17 years not much has been done to promote the longer version of the game. “The focus has always been on limited overs cricket. That is quite unfortunate,” Naimur says. Speaking from his residence in Dhaka, the former captain feels that Bangladesh still lags behind in the Test arena, simply because there is lack of experience. “That is not what we expected. Now even as we bask in the glory of the 100th Test match, let’s not forget that the feat should have been achieved much before. I really don’t know why it took 17 years to play another 99 Tests,” Naimur wonders.

No five-day tournaments

In November 2000, when Bangladesh cricketers donned the white flannel for the first time against the Sourav Ganguly-led India, there wasn’t any five-day domestic tournament. The Bangladesh National League was turned into a four-day affair in 1999, just to ensure that the International Cricket Council (ICC) norms were followed. It’s been years since and still there are no five-day tournaments. “At the local-level too, our perception must change. At a time when our boys are playing well, we must ensure that there is enough competitive cricket at the grassroots,” Naimur points out.

There is a popular joke in the cricketing circles regarding the National League. The players and the scribes covering the tournament often make fun of it, referring to it as a ‘picnic league’, which is anything but competitive. Keeping that in mind, the BCB introduced the Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL) in 2012, with an aim to make it meaningful for the international players. For a country that is ranked ninth in Tests, that is the only four-day competitive tournament at the domestic level. “As a former cricketer this is disturbing. When we played the first Test, it was more of an emotional and sentimental journey. But now, it’s time we think logically,” Naimur says.

Citing instances of how Bangladesh batsmen often find it difficult to tackle seaming conditions in New Zealand or Australia, the former skipper says that at home too, the wickets should be sporting. “In Bangladesh, there is a tendency of preparing flat wickets. And, if a player is used to playing on flat surfaces, it is unfair to expect a good show on bouncy tracks,” Naimur admits.

ICC should schedule more Tests for Bangladesh

As a member of the BCB, Naimur is understandably not critical of the Board, but then, he feels the ICC’s Future Tours and Programmes committee must ensure that teams like Bangladesh are given more Test series. “In so many years, we have travelled to India just once. That too, for a lone Test. Such things must improve,” he says, adding: “Without playing Test cricket, it is not possible for a team to grow. The ICC must also support us.”

As he speaks, the former captain says that the current crop has the potential to scale the peak. “All they need is a bit of confidence, and more experience. Allow these players to play Tests regularly, and see the result,” he says.

Mum on Hathurasinghe

As Bangladesh gears up for the milestone Test, the camp is reportedly not too pleased with some of the decisions taken by head coach Chandika Hathurasinghe. Naimur, however, is not ready to discuss about it. “As a BCB member, I won’t talk about it to the media,” he says, taking a pause. “But I will definitely discuss about all these when the Board officials meet.”

Bangladesh has always had success stories with foreign coaches. While they have had big names like Gordon Greenidge and Dav Whatmore as their chief coaches, the country has failed to leave a mark in the longer formats of the game. “I hope we walk towards the right step after the 100th Test,” Naimur hopes.

Two decades ago, when a group of youngsters took up the game as a career option, playing a Test match was more like a dream. And as the nation gets ready to bask in the glory of a milestone match, the country’s first long-format captain too keeps his fingers crossed!