In the early years of Bangladesh’s cricketing journey as a full member of the International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body was forced to share then Dhaka Stadium - currently known as Bangabandhu National Stadium - in Paltan for international series and tournaments purposes with other sports.
It did not bode well with then policymakers of the Bangladesh Cricket Board or BCB.
Eventually, they could commandeer the domain of a Mirpur stadium, later dubbed Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium, as the so-called ‘Home of Cricket’.
But for a full rubber, which would feature multiple red and white balls internationals, the board required more than one stadium.
Back then, cricketing infrastructure was in its infancy in Bangladesh, so the only way to solve the dilemma was to build a new stadium near Dhaka.
Hence, the idea of Bangladesh’s third Test venue, known as Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, was hatched.
The venue received its Test status in 2006, with the Tigers playing their first home series against the mighty Australians and the last international match played there was between Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, which was a part of the Asia Cup qualifier.
It has been seven years since that match, and despite being so close to the capital city with all its perks and facilities, BCB did not pick the venue to host any more international matches.
Let us take a comparative look at how it used to look in 2015 and now.
You may get the answer.
A TURF WAR AT THE HEART OF THE ISSUE
Although the 25000-capacity stadium is a full-fledged cricket stadium, the BCB has hardly any say about how to maintain the stadium's infrastructure.
The stadium is under the purview of the National Sports Council of Bangladesh or NSCB.
An official of the Narayanganj District Sports Office, who did not want to reveal his identity, said the development and maintenance of the stadium were stalled due to the disagreement over the control of the stadium between BCB and NSCB.
“On one hand, NSCB lacks fund to maintain and develop it but does not want to lose control over the stadium. On the other hand, BCB wants to invest and develop the stadium, but in exchange, it seeks full control of it,” he said.
Faruk Bin Yusuf Pappu, vice-president of Narayanganj District Sports Office and president of the cricket standing committee, also confirmed the tussle.
“There is indeed an issue between BCB and NSCB. However, I'm still hopeful. The ministry [Bangladesh Ministry of Youth and Sports] will intervene to resolve the issue.
Two years ago, according to officials at the District Sports Office in Narayanganj, a team from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology conducted a feasibility study on bringing the stadium back to its former glory.
The report was submitted to the ministry. Since then, nobody has heard about it anymore.
WHY IS THE STADIUM IN DIRE STRAITS
During a quick visit to the stadium site, this correspondent found that the digital scoreboard of the stadium was out of order, floodlights bulbs were missing, the dressing room for players was unusable, and the shed and seats for spectators were broken.
In the outside portion of the stadium, the vast plain was covered with a sea of hyacinths.
During an interview with bdnews24.com, Venue Manager Babul Mia confirmed that some domestic and List A matches are still being played to locals at the stadium, known as Fatullah stadium.
During the stadium’s glory days, these matches used to be organised at the stadium’s outer portion.
The outer portion of the stadium submerged under water for some years.
“We can only host some matches inside the stadium during the dry season. The outer stadium went underwater some years ago, and during monsoon, the infield submerges underwater as well,” he said.
Khorshed Alam Nasir, joint secretary of the District Sports Office, blamed poor planning for the waterlogging situation.
“The Fatullah area is industrial, and the stadium is below the road adjacent to highway level. That’s why the industrial waste from the nearby factories ends up at the outer portion and seeps into the infield. It wouldn’t have happened had planners considered it before constructing the stadium,” he said.
“It needs to tear apart and rebuild again from scratch.”
Tanveer Ahmed, head of the BCB media and communication team, said the board has nothing to do with the Fatullah stadium and the National Sports Council must take the initiative to save the field.
“All the grounds in the country are owned by the National Sports Council. The BCB has no jurisdiction to do anything there. The sports council does everything. Sometimes, due to the slow pace of work by the sports council, we do things ourselves. As we often need to do things nationally, we do it ourselves.”
“The stadium in Fatullah has to be completely refitted. The field should be raised by six feet because the surrounding area is higher, according to instructions from BUET. Many factories and buildings have recently been built in the area. All of them are higher than the ground. But, if we add six feet of soil to the current grounds, a section of the gallery will be too low and must be raised. The fact is, the whole thing has to be planned anew.”
The National Sports Council is working on it, he said.
“As far as I know, a plan was presented to the ECNEC and passed too. The proposal didn’t only concern the Fatullah stadium but also the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna too. The National Sports Council is working on preparing the DPP. Once it’s complete, they will send out tenders in the next fiscal year," Tanveer said.
“Once the sports council has announced the tenders, contractors will complete the work. When the grounds are turned over to us, we will do whatever work is necessary to set up the facilities for an international venue.”
Asked about the conflict between the BCB and the sports council, Tanveer said: “It isn’t really like that. The BCB does not have a conflict with the sports council. The problem is that the stadium is inside the DND, and the ground is low. This causes water to accumulate there. Not only inside the stadium but in the nearby areas too. As taller structures have been built nearby, there is no way for the water to flow away.”
“The prime minister is getting the armed forces to work on it. Considering the overall state of the DND, a project worth about Tk 15 billion is underway, which could be completed next year. Once it is done, water will not accumulate in the DND.
Even if the sports council says it has maintained the field properly, the water accumulation issue still persists, he says.
“That is why the DND work is essential. As the entire area around it has been raised, the stadium needs to be elevated. As such, it is the government’s responsibility, and the government will fund it. The tender for it will be announced after we proceed through several more steps.
“Currently, we are experiencing a global recession. The government or the National Sports Council will proceed with the work with that in mind. The faster they finish, the quicker we can make it fit for matches.”
[Writing in English and interactive content created by Adil Mahmood]