Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  

ICC World Cup 2007
Dare predict on the Tigers

Is it risky to predict anything about Bangladesh cricket team? The answer is definitely in the affirmative, especially after Habibul Bashar's men's meek surrender to Ireland in the World Cup Super Eights encounter in Barbados on Sunday.

It was simply another match for the amateur Irish cricketers but that was not the case for the Tigers, who had some points to prove after heroic wins against India and South Africa in the showpiece event.

If everything they had achieved from the tournament before Sunday's anticlimax was beyond their expectation, then the way they hit the low in all departments against the part-timers was beyond anyone's imagination.

That was the reason the stunning 74-run defeat, which halted their recent winning streak against ICC associate members, has not only come as a shock but also raised questions amongst millions of cricket fans about the real strength of Bangladesh cricket.

Many have been searching for answers: Where the true status of Bangladesh cricket lies? Whether the Tigers' World Cup campaign would be considered a memorable one after the heartbreaking show? And last but not the least, whether they have set any standard as a team in the competition?

Fans hardly took to heart the huge defeats to giants like Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand after their great five-wicket triumph against India before pulling off another remarkable 67-run success against the Proteas, but it was hard to accept the loss against the Irish, which virtually soiled their glorious success.

The word 'inconsistency' may not be just good enough to ease the pain.

A good team may rise and fall in batting and bowling but how one can accept inconsistency in their fielding efforts? The reality is Bangladesh fielding was only good on a day when all other departments clicked simultaneously.

Despite having a high profile coach, who is assisted by a specialist fielding trainer, Bangladesh have hardly proved as a steady fielding side like Sri Lanka used to be when they were being moulded as a team.

If left-arm paceman Syed Rasel's last moment injury was a setback against Ireland, who stunned Pakistan to make a second round berth but still failed to impress in the Super Eights, then sluggish ground fielding was one of the main reasons behind the upset.

Ireland might have cashed in on the bite-less bowling and poor fielding but achieving a total of 244 never looked like an impossible task. Here lies the real problem of Bangladesh cricket because even in an otherwise impressive show in the Caribbean, the batting remained a real headache. It has been also proved that the team-management has agonisingly failed to find any answer about the opening pair.

Ace batsman Mohammad Ashraful showed fire throughout the tournament including his epic match-winning 87 against South Africa but the way he threw out his wickets after a fantastic start in the last game simply raised the old debate of whether he has really understood his role in the team.

The most nagging question is whether the frequent changes in the batting line made by the team management make any sense. By doing this, they perhaps, shattered the confidence of the lot.

The other issue to provide food for thought is whether the selectors really have any faith in Javed Omar as an opener because it is hard to explain he was dropped after two crucial performances. Actually, the impression one gets from the selectors' acts that they simply picked him for the World Cup as a 'balancing act'.

The 'opening' crisis also reflects their wrong planning over the last couple of years.

The arrival of Shakib Al Hasan seemed to be a solution in the middle order but after few matches, the same old problem has surfaced and with Bashar at his lowest ebb, things turned from bad to worse.

It has time and again proved that the present think-tank's repeatedly practised 'cut and chop' policy could not be a solution for batsmen.

So, saying 'all went wrong' after a defeat is not good enough. It needs to go to the root to find a solution to build a consistent team even if the Tigers pull off another stunning victory in their last game against the wounded hosts West Indies on April 19.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar loses his castle to counterpart Trent Johnston as Ireland win by 74 runs in their World Cup Super Eights clash at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP