Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 4 | January 25, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  One Off
  Straight Talk
  Food for Thought
  A Roman Column
  Special Feature
  Book Review
  Dhaka Diary

   SWM Home


At Sea, Overseas

Nader Rahman

Tamim Iqbal celebrates a rare success.

Bangladesh came back from a series drubbing against Sri Lanka last year with more than a few questions that needed answering. A full time coach was yet to be appointed, Habibul Bashar's place in the team needed to be looked into and there was the sensitive issue of Mohammad Rafique, his discipline and form were both under the microscope. More than all of those combined Bangladesh still had no answer to their never-ending problem of inconsistency, especially when playing abroad.

In good time Jamie Siddons was appointed as coach and Bashar was selected in what could have been his last series while Rafique was overlooked for both the Tests and the ODI's, thus depriving him the chance to become the first Bangladeshi to 100 Test wickets. But preparations for the tour were dealt a severe blow when cyclone SIDR hit the country hard. For sometime cricket was the last thing on people's minds, as the nation tried to find its feet. From the grief came some good news, as there was talk of a charity Twenty/20 match in New Zealand to raise funds for the cyclone victims. The game eventually materialised and proved to be a boost for a beleaguered team and nation.

There were a few new faces in the squad announced for the tour as the hard hitting opener Junaid Siddique and the fast bowler Nazmul Hossain were given a chance. As the team departed for New Zealand they were saying all the right things, we won't be pushovers and as long as we play to our potential we'll be happy, quotes which seem to have been memorised because of the regularity with which they appear before every tour. Both Bangladesh and New Zealand had a lot to prove from the tour, as Bangladesh had been steamrolled in Sri Lanka and New Zealand had been annihilated in South Africa they both had to set their reputations straight. Bangladesh desperately needed a decent performance, which would ease the pressure off the new captain and would give the new coach a confident start. On the other hand New Zealand needed to prove their worth as one of the big boys in international cricket, they were treated with scant respect in South Africa and nothing short of a whitewash against Bangladesh would please the new captain Daniel Vettori. While it was not a make or break series it was one to forge reputations and with that in mind it is safe to say Bangladesh under whelmed the world yet again.

The series began on victory day with a one day match against the Northern Districts. The defeat on victory day was a bitter pill to swallow as it proved that as a test nation Bangladesh is still routinely beaten by first class sides. Only Junaid Siddique used the opportunity to warm up as he stroked a useful half century at well below his usual strike rate. The small total of 222 was chased down with ease as Bangladesh never got a look in, the game was finished with more than seven overs to spare and seven wickets in hand. Syed Rasel injured himself in the match and had to be replaced with the promising seamer Sajidul Islam. Within the week Tushar Imran also found himself injured and the team had to call up Rajin Saleh as backup. The second warm up match was rained off after Bangladesh put up a strong performance in the bowling department restricting Northern Districts. The third one day match was to be the teams last opportunity to show some form before the real series began. After winning the toss Bangladesh chose to bat first against Auckland and it was only a century from Tamim Iqbal that held the innings together as the second highest score was a measly 29. Bangladesh ended with a sub par score of 243 and it proved to be too little as the Auckland batsmen overcame the score without a hiccup. Two demoralising defeats to first class sides the hit and giggle form of Twenty/20 cricket was just what the side needed.

The Twenty/20 game against the New Zealand Cricket XI was a charity match with all the proceeds going to SIDR victims, and proved to be the inspiration the team needed. Putting the opposition in Bangladesh bowled with pace and guile to strangle the New Zealand Cricket XI to 133 with the firebrand Shahadat Hossain bowling beautifully to pick up three for 15 in his four overs. Bangladesh reply got off to a horrible start with both the openers back in the hut within the first few overs. From number three to number seven all the batsmen got past 20 and played out what proved to be a rather comprehensive victory with three overs remaining. Playing for the well being of a million people inspired them in a way not seen before on the trip and their smiles only widened when Malcom Speed handed over a cheque for USD 250,000 for the cyclone relief fund. It was a memorable victory which few in the nation could watch as BTV did not air the match.

In need of a good knock.

Next came the real business end of the trip with the first ODI on Boxing Day at Eden Park. Bangladesh started positively as Tamim Iqbal composed a fluent half century as the captain Ashraful went ballistic with a 57 ball 70. Then with the score on a 150 in 30 overs with only 3 wickets down Bangladesh started to lose the plot with as the middle order and tail crumbled to be 201 all-out in the 47th over. New Zealand chased down the score with time to spare as they were untroubled by a feisty Bangladesh attack. Jamie How top scored with 88 to win the man of the match award. The second ODI only widened the gap between the nations a gap which continued to widen till the end of the tour. New Zealand batted first and smote the Bangladesh bowling around the park to pile up 335 with everyone in the top order contributing including a 31 ball blitz from Jacob Oram at the death. Bangladesh were left to chase 284 from 43 overs. Kyle Mills ripped through the top order taking the first three wickets and Bangladesh ambled to 181. Things got worse in the last match as the last day of the year proved to be Bangladesh's lowest point. Bangladesh were sent in on a flat pitch at Queenstown and from 40 for one they slipped to a mind numbing 93 all out in 37 painstaking overs. The instigator in chief was none other than the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori who bowled six tidy overs with two maidens for five wickets giving away a mere seven runs. It was not devilish turn or supreme guile that did them in, it was just a case of bad batting making average bowling look good. To continue the embarrassment New Zealand chased down the total in six overs without the loss of a wicket as Brendon Mcullum smashed the bowlers for a 28 ball 80 at a mind boggling strike rate of 285. The game was over even before the lunch break as Bangladesh was annihilated, embarrassed and put it in its place by a professional team playing professional cricket. There was a lot of work to do before the tests.

The test matches were so similar that it was difficult to differentiate between the first and second matches. In both games Bangladesh was sent in to bat first and their first innings scores were below 150 having played less than 50 overs. New Zealand replied with scores of over 350 but below 400 on both occasions and only in the first test did Bangladesh actually show some fight to force New Zealand to bat again.

In the first game Chris Martin bowled with good pace and bounce often clocking over 140 kmph as he took four slightly expensive wickets to bowl out Bangladesh for 137. Tamim's fifty was the only score of note as New Zealand replied with 357 with centuries from Oram and a newly recalled Matthew Bell. The second innings was where Bangladesh shoed its mettle playing out the second day for 148 runs without loss as both the openers in their test debuts notched up impressive fifties. They both looked on par to get a century each but were dismissed early on the third day. There was still time for a fight from Bangladesh but their brittle batting could only garner them a lead of 34 leaving New Zealand a tiny score to chase down which they did with ease losing only one wicket.

A positive start in the second innings could not spur them on to greater things and in the end it was a thoroughly disappointing end to what could have been an interesting test match, the middle order needed to score and they would get another chance in the second test.

That match proved to be yet another let down, a poor first innings was followed up with a bland bowling performance as Daniel Vettori raced to a better than a run ball 90. The second innings was more misery as Bangladesh crashed to 113 all out, thus losing the game by a whopping innings and 137 runs, that too almost within two days. The only score of importance was a Russian roulette type innings of 25 from ex-captain Bashar who in the process went past 3000 test runs, one wonders how much more he will add to that total after a below average performance in New Zealand.

The tour to a country with north and south islands proved that in the larger scheme of things Bangladesh would still be considered a south country. Erratic bowling and brittle batting only win matches once in a while and as a test playing nation Bangladesh should not be losing to first class sides. It seems as if there is always work to do after a losing series and this time is no different. The new coach needs to impose himself on a team of relative youngsters and 'application' should be the buzzword for this year and many years to come. There were a few positives to come out of the series Tamim Iqbal curbed his flamboyant style to notch up some good solid scores, Junaid Siddique proved he could be here to stay and Sajidul Islam performed with real spirit and courage. But in most other departments there is still a lot of work to be done or we will forever be at sea, overseas.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008