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     Volume 8 Issue 74 | June 19, 2009 |

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Bangladeshi Blues

Nader Rahman
“Yeah, deliver the food by plane to Nottingham, just ask for the stadium where Bangladesh is playing.
Its quite easy to find. One more thing could I get some fries with that?”

The history of Bangladeshi cricket has been defined by momentary highs and unfathomable lows; yet unbelievably for the most part, people have come to accept the roller coaster ride and whether they admit it or not, at times even enjoy it. Last week’s ICC World Twenty20 was another one of those occasions when the ride was all just a bit too much to stomach. Having been used to Bangladesh's mercurial form, outwardly their loss to the far more experienced and professional side of India was acceptable. Had Mushfiqur Rahim kept a steady hand and stumped Yuvraj Singh, his late surge could have been avoided and the game would probably have turned our way. The same mistake could have been made by Dhoni, McCullum or Haddin, yet the overall sloppiness of the wicket keeping was emblematic of a team high on talent and low on application. Let’s be honest, no one really thought we would beat India, the real problem was how we lost, not the fact that we actually did.

The loss to India was guaranteed by sloppy keeping, poor bowling at the death and mind-numbingly silly batting. This is the team that made its way into the second round of the last World Twenty20, as well as the 2007 World Cup. In between they almost beat New Zealand in a test match while also stringing together a number of decent performances over the last few years. The only problem is in between all of these performances they have been absolutely abysmal, batsmen have continually failed to apply themselves while actually the bowling and fielding has improved a bit. Seemingly the search for consistency is one that we will have to continue for a few more years, but the real question is why? They have proved that on their day they can compete with the big boys, so why should anything short of that be accepted by the Board and the public?

Tamim Iqbal is a gifted clean hitter of the ball, our very own 7.5 Lakh per game man, yet he continues to charge down the pitch trying to hit bowlers out of the stadium. His dismissal against India is one that has been repeated over and over again and now one must question his mindset towards the game, not his talent. A case study to learn from would be Ramnaresh Sarwan. When he made his debut for the West Indies he was touted as the next big thing, the right-handed heir to Brian Lara's throne, yet he never quite lived up to his talent. A compulsive hooker at one point in his career he got out to the hook shot five time in eight innings and it seemed as it his he would join the ranks of Ramprakash and Hicks as a talented non performer. He was even briefly dropped from the team and that is when he went about reinventing himself. He cut out the hook, learned to concentrate and started to play longer innings. He was soon taken back into the side and stormed to form with a rich vein of form, suffice to say the hook shot is well and truly out of his game. This is also a story our captain Mohammed Ashraful can learn from, his sublime to ridiculous form and his penchant for predetermined shots had led him to be one of cricket's great mysteries. Against India he stepped back outside leg stump and tried to cream a full length ball through the covers. The predetermined shot failed miserably as he found the fielders hands, and as he walked back to the dugout millions of Bangladeshi hopes went with him. His lack of tactical acumen can be put down to poor captaincy, yet his continued failures with the bat are unforgivable for a person who has been on the international scene for close to 10 years. If he hasn't learned from his mistakes by now, the common consensus is that he never will.

Yet, not everything can be blamed on the captain, the rest of the team must mature as a unit or risk becoming an international joke. After losing to India most people thought the worst was over, the next match would be against the featherweights of Ireland and from the outset the game was viewed as a bit of a walkover. Seemingly most had forgotten that the golden run in the World Cup two years ago ended with an embarrassing defeat to the same nation. The game proved to be a painful examination of Bangladeshi cricket as we crumbled and self destructed to a team of amateurs. The highlight of which was the superb catching practice Ashraful provided for the Irish fielders. Having already tried to glide a ball into first slip's hands Ashraful tried his luck again and succeeded, it was the single worst piece of batting one could ever hope to see.

Not everything can be blamed on the captain, the rest of the team must mature as a unit or risk becoming an international joke.

The captain had embarrassed himself, his team and his nation, yet interestingly he remained unrepentant. Flying back to Dhaka two days after the rest of the team Ashraful said, “I have no such plan [to quit the captaincy]. The board has given me this job and it's up to them whether they let me continue or not." He further went on to say, “'I'm not afraid of any criticism because it's nothing new to me,” as if we didn't know that. If only Ashraful could take a page out of the football coach's notebook. Every four years the end of the football World Cup usually marks the end of a coach's tenure. The reason being they all make promises such as reaching the second round or winning the trophy and most of them remain unfulfilled. When those promises are not kept the coaches take the blame for the teams losses and resign for their failures. It has become something of a tradition and Ashraful should take note. In football the coaches call all the games, they set them up and manoeuvre them as a captain would his field in cricket, therefore essentially making them equal in stature across two sports. This was his World Cup and in the light of his continuously patchy performance as captain he should hand in his resignation and prove his worth to the team as a batsman alone. He has done his part, and like many others he has failed. Tendulkar and Lara did not make the best captains and yet they held their own because of their batting abilities, unfortunately Ashraful has not even say that much. It is time he proves to the team why he deserves to be there with runs rather than words.

At the same time the entire team needs to turn their collective abilities into performances. The days of amateur cricket are gone, they are now paid well and are professional and should act as such. The entire nation and the cricket board have invested time, money and effort into training and producing some of the finest young talent in the world, now they need to pay some of that back with their performances. While at the World Twenty20 a disturbing story came out of England that the cricketers had food flown in from Bristol to Nottingham at the Boards expense and while many at home had not heard of the story it made headlines in England. What more can I say for a team that lost abysmally to England and Ireland except, I hope the meal was worth it.


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