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Play with passion or leave the arena

“It’s not possible for us; we’re unable to make it happen.”
This is how cricketer Nasum Ahmed reacted to the media after pathetically losing against England in the 20-over cricket World Cup tournament.
On the other hand, Mushfiq, Shakib, and Mahmudullah were reportedly quite aggressive as they tried to defend the team’s poor performance. The chief of Bangladesh Cricket Board was heard saying that the “approach” of our team isn’t right.
First, I appreciate Nasum’s remark, a sort of soul-search, as he confessed that we haven’t been performing well; we haven’t been playing well, and of course, we haven’t been winning in the arena. No, he didn’t express a giving-up attitude. He simply wanted to say that we have to change in order to perform better in the arena.
Yes, we want our cricketers to perform better. There’ll always be one side winning and the other losing. But that doesn’t mean that we have to lose miserably, without a fight, and with a mediocre performance. This is what Nasum wanted to mean.
As for Mushfiq, Shakib, and Mahmudullah, the experienced few who have a history of many achievements under their sleeves, I believe these boys have become psychologically tired. They’re just playing for the sake of playing. A game, to them, has become just another game. And they lost their winning zeal.
Shakib may have succeeded to attain a state of high performance, but one single player doesn’t win a match — it’s always teamwork, and each and every member of the team has to perform at a level to have a good result.
Our experienced cricketers, these days, cannot take criticism. Mushfiq recently attacked the critics, saying that they themselves should look at their own faces in the mirror. Mahmudullah said he was hurt after seeing a deluge of harsh criticism hurled at them.
A member of the team management committee was heard as saying that “they don’t listen to anyone now; and that’s why we don’t guide them anymore.”
To us, the audience, who look up to our cricketers with patriotic emotions, this is a dangerous signal, a devastating message. It says the board has no control over these senior boys.
It’s obvious. When the chief of the board says that our “approach” is not right, it means the board isn’t doing anything. If they did, the approach would have been fixed.
Does that mean the board and the people associated in the executive committee in the board have failed? We would like to have the answer. We’ve seen reports in the media that our board is one of the richest in the cricketing world. That means money isn’t a problem. What’s stopping them from utilizing that money?
Let’s look for the answer to the question: Why are we playing cricket in the international arena?
As of now, cricket has become the citizens’ sense of achievement in their mundane life. Patriotic feelings rise when they look up at their team. Cricket also works in branding the country in the international communication channels. For the government, it is a nice tool; it can keep an enormous number of people busy watching the game.
So, there are many aspects of it. And at the same time, there are many expectations. If there were no expectations, there wouldn’t be any board and you, the cricketers, wouldn’t be out there in the field. Yes, we would expect you to deliver, and by that, we mean you would win many matches.
We also would like to see you as the champions. The world champions. It’s not confined to only “you” now, it’s the entire country — Bangladesh. If you’re losing, the millions of Bangladeshi citizens are losing; if you don’t care about the people’s emotion and their expectations, you should quit the arena and stop receiving your paychecks. Many of you have already become big businesspersons and you would be fine in terms of your living and livelihood.
You need to remember that you have chosen to be in the spotlight all the time. You enjoy all the glamour in the world. People name their children after you, as they always look up to you.
Now, if you cannot deliver, you most certainly should leave the arena. Stop demeaning the national image if you cannot improve it.
And the question that must be asked at the board and national levels: Do we want to keep this culture of playing cricket alive?
If we do, we must strategize for improving it with integrity, shedding off this nonchalant attitude. Our cricket hasn’t changed over the last two decades, and we just went back to that zero level that we were 20 years ago. We don’t have a supply chain in cricket; we’re always focused with these 40-something players all the time.
And if we don’t want this culture to survive, let’s forget about it; let’s utilize the cricketing fund in poverty alleviation or Covid treatment.
We don’t want you to win all the time; nobody can win all the time; we just want you to play well — with honour.
Please uphold the honour, your honour, Bangladesh’s honour.
First published in Dhaka Tribune on 30 October 2021.

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