Vol. 5 Num 1062 Mon. May 28, 2007  

grameenphone TEST SERIES
Dav parts with fond memories

Dav What-more's beginning and end as coach of the Bangla-desh team can best be su-mmed up as a study in contrast. For the outgoing Whatmore, who directed the Tigers for the last time at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday, contrast will be the central recurring theme from his start in Darwin to his end at Mirpur in Dhaka.

The Sri Lankan-born Australian had desired before the start of his last game that his charges play some good and sensible cricket. But there was nothing encouraging in his side's performance in an innings and 239-run defeat in the second and final Test match against India.

It was his thirteenth innings defeat in 27 Tests since he has taken the helm of the Tigers in June 2003. True, he had experienced innings defeats in his first assignment in Australia but still there was something, under the leadership of Khaled Mahmud, to cheer about in that occasion, especially the performance in the second Test at Cairns.

"It's obviously disappointing (the performance in Mirpur). But these things happen when you have a big score to chase. My first Test in charge of Bangladesh was against Australia in Australia. There were some encouraging signs there but we did not win; we did not play that well here either," was the reaction of the portly man when he was asked to remark about his swansong.

But the 53-year old coach said that he has found signs of improvement in the performance of the Tigers during his four years stint.

"But along the way there has been some real encouragement. We do not always play against strong teams. We do play against other teams that are not quite strong as Australia or South Africa."

Under his guidance Bangladesh have won only one Test against Zimbabwe at Chittagong and drew four matches including a creditable one in West Indies. In his second assignment Bangladesh were very close to their maiden Test victory in Multan before Pakistan snatched the win by one-wicket.

Whatmore however rated highest the performance against World Champions Australian in Fatullah in April last year.

"On our day we can really push them (big teams). We can even push Australia also. We had a very good four days (Fatullah) and we were little bit unlucky not to make that game closer if not win it altogether against the number one ranked team. So we have improved, no question about that," he summarised.

Whatmore said that the team's performance in the World Cup in West Indies was the greatest satisfaction he derived during his four-year tenure with the Tigers.

"There are a lot of fond memories I will recall. Lot of interesting things along the way, but more or less lots of fond memories. Beating some of the big teams are the sweetest memories. Certainly progressing in the World Cup was a big effort and a very pleasant case," he said.

The one-day record of the Tigers is much better with 33 wins in 89 matches, although 18 of those came last year mostly against the minnows.

There were also landmark successes against teams like Australia, India (twice), Sri Lanka and South Africa.

"We have a long way to go, no question about that. How we became more competitive in the longer gamethat's a very good question that needs careful thinking. But we certainly need to play more than what we did, in this case 13 months went by without playing a Test series," he said expressing his opinion over Bangladesh team future in the highest level of the game.

"Everybody in the cricketing world wants Bangladesh to become competitive in the longer game," he added.

Despite the recent poor batting performance, Whatmore praised his captain Habibul Bashar with whom he brought the country much to cheer.

"He (Bashar) has been the best player for Bangladesh in Tests. He made lot of runs, averaging over 30, 34 I think, which is pretty good. He proved himself against lot of good oppositions," he observed.

He also spoke about yesterday's breezy knock by Bangladesh vice-captain Mohammad Ashraful.

"Ashraful's innings brought a touch of breeze into the game. He is more keen to one-day cricket but he is very very good player. If he hit the ball in the air he is going to get out caught. He knows that. But obviously it was a good knock," he said.

"The thing I really wish it could be better if more of the individuals evolve into better players. I would have loved Ashraful to develop more in those four years.

His best cricket is clearly still to come. His consistency will improve as he gets older. He has got terrific talent, no doubt," he said.

"I will go back to Australia (laugh). I will go back and recharge the battery. You all know that there may be another challenge not far away. That will remain the decision of the employers. On the 4th of June if they make that decision, that's great. If not, that's fine," he informed, casting an aura of ambiguity over his future.

FUTILE FIFTY: Bangladesh batsman Mohammad Ashraful flays one over square leg for six during his 41-minute stay at the wicket on the third day of the second and final Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday. Even though it was the fastest fifty in terms of time, his effort did little to stop Bangladesh from suffering an embarrassing innings and 239-run defeat against India. Photo: Anisur Rahman