It's been quite a while since a cricket match took place at the Sher-E-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur, an astonishing 4776 hours to be precise. Not only here, cricketing action has also been on hold throughout the country because of Covid-19. The cricketers were allowed to practice individually from July. They started training as a team on September 20.
Finally, a cricket match is going to be held in Mirpur after six and a half months, 199 days to be exact. All the cricketers called up to the skill camp barring Abu Jayed Rahi have checked in at the Pan Pacific Sonargoan. The match will start at 9.30 am on Friday.
Fast bowler Abu Jayed Rahi has tested negative, but is being monitored by the medical team of the BCB. Another test will be conducted in four-five days' time. If his results turn out negative then, he'll be allowed to join the team. He has gone back to his hometown for a few days and will join the team after undergoing the test. As a result, he is set to miss both of the two-day practice matches.
Some of the cricketers have even forgotten the last cricket match they were part of. Few of them cannot exactly remember whether it was for Bangladesh or in the Dhaka Premier League (DPL).
The last match that took place before the Covid-19 hiatus was played between Prime Bank Cricket Club and Gazi Group Cricketers. It was a DPL game that was held on March 16. Since then, no professional cricket match in the country has been played. After a long wait, Cricketing action is going to return through the practice match on October 2.
Cricketers resumed training after four-day break on Thursday. The 26 cricketers were divided into two teams that day itself. One of the teams is going to be captained by Mominul Haque, the another by Nazmul Hossain Shanto. The side captained by Shanto has been named after bowling coach Ottis Gibson and the team led by Mominul after fielding coach Ryan Cook.
The match will not be part of any tournament though. The cricketers staying at Pan Pacific Sonargoan under the bio-secure bubble will participate in the match. Though an intra-squad match, there is no shortage of excitement.
One of the batsmen of the national team, citing anonymity, told The Business Standard (TBS), "All these days, we have done batting practice. But we are going to play an actual match tomorrow. Though it's going to be match among us, there will be a sense of competition. I cannot wait for tomorrow morning."
A fast bowler of the team shared with excitement as well. "I have been bowling for a few days now. I am relieved to finally return to training. I am very excited for tomorrow's game. To be honest, today seems to be longer day. Probably it's because of the excitement to finally play," he said.
The selectors of the team also feel that it is a very important match in order to bring back the rhythm. Habibul Bashar, the former captain and currently selector of the team, told TBS, "We are taking it to be a match to bring back the old rhythm. We want to see how they are doing in terms of skills and rhythm."
"I don't think there's much to judge. It's great if someone does well. But it won't quite make a difference if someone doesn't perform well. Everyone has been out of action for seven months, so there is no expectation," Bashar added.
Samples of national team and under-19 team cricket and coaching staff as well as the staff of Pan Pacific Sonargoan were collected by the BCB. A total of 105 samples were collected. All of them, including pacer Abu Jayed Rahi who tested positive on September 23, have tested negative for Covid-19.
Rahi told TBS, "I have tested negative for Covid-19. I will undergo another test in 4-5 days' time. If I test negative then, I will be able to join the team. I am no longer isolated and can step out of my room."
The cricketers will continue to practice under the bio-secure bubble till October 15. They will play two two-day practice matches in Mirpur. The first match is going to start on Friday. The second game will be held on September 5 and 6.
28 cricketers called up to the under-19 team as well as the coaching staff have tested negative. They reached the BKSP on Wednesday and started training from the next day. As part of the four-week skill camp, they will play five 50-over games on October 17, 18, 22, 24 and 26. The camp will be monitored by the head coach Naveed Nawaz and trainer Richard Stonier.
Tamim Iqbal and Shafiul Islam will not participate in the first two-day match that is going to start on Friday in Mirpur.
Ottis Gibson XI: Saif Hassan, Imrul Kayes, Nazmul Hossain Shanto (c), Mahmudullah, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mosaddek Hossain, Nayeem Hasan, Hasan Mahmud, Ebadot Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain.
Ryan Cook XI: Yasir Ali, Shadman Islam, Mominul Haque (c), Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Nurul Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Taijul Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Khaled Ahmed, Al-Amin Hossain.