By Ziad Hyder
The match was billed as the battle of the Giant Killers. Both teams had comprehensively beaten two sub-continental heavyweights and progressed into the Super Eights. Both teams had similar starts to their Super Eight campaign with Bangladesh showing marked improvement having beaten South Africa, dethroning them from their no. 1 ranking, and forcing England to make a huge meal out of nothing. And thus giving Bangladesh more than just an edge over their encounter with Ireland.
But just like in the past, whenever a match looks good on paper for Bangladesh, we seem to do the inevitable and prove that it is not enough to win a match by looking just good on paper. Bangladesh were comprehensively beaten by a side which has played only 16 ODIs as compared to 157 played by Bangladesh. The difference being almost one-tenth.
One gets a feeling that Bangladesh might have over-rated the Irish team. Bangladesh, despite losing the toss, would have bowled anyways even if they had won it. So one cannot say that Bangladesh got off the wrong foot as the toss was a win-win situation for them. The pitch was an authentic West Indian pitch, offering pace and bounce. The injury to Syed Rasel could have been a blessing for Bangladesh had Shahadot Hossain, the country's fastest bowler, gotten his radar correct. Hossain has the pace and height and the pitch was a paradise for him but just like in the warm-up games his bowling was wayward, giving the batsmen easy runs and hardly troubling them at all. He could have so easily taken inspiration from Mashrafe who bowled excellently from the other end. Bangladesh were unable to get any breakthrough with their pacers as the Irish had their highest opening partnership in the world cup also their highest in their one day international career. Would you believe that before this match, the Irish openers could not even formulate their partnership to double figures. Before their match against Bangladesh their opening partnership stats in the world cup read 0,7,3,6,5 and 2.
Hats off to the Irish captain, Trent Johnston for taking a very brave decision to bat first on the very ground where they were bowled out for just 92 by Australia a few days back. Some pretty less-than-ordinary fielding played a major role as Bangladesh missed a dozen run out chances and misjudged some very simple catches. Such poor fielding only made it easier for Ireland to post their highest total in this world cup. It was a familiar story with the Bangladesh batting as Tamim Iqbal, Shahriar Nafees, Aftab Ahmed, Mushfiqur Rahim and Habibul Bashar continued their consistent run of poor form, Sakibul Hassan a victim of bad luck and Ashraful a victim of the captain's denial to taking quick singles, giving him no other option but to go for big shots.
Habibul Bashar, the captain of Bangladesh, has hit out at Bangladesh admitting his side deserved to be beaten. “We were very ordinary today and we deserved to be beaten” were his exact words. But in reality, does the whole team needs to be blamed for their debacle against Ireland or should the blame fall on one particular person, namely the captain. As it has been the case in the past, the root of every successful and unsuccessful cricket team is the captain. Whether its performing in the match or motivating his players, the captain plays a very important role in the team, even more important than the coach. As John Wright, the former New Zealand captain and coach of India, had said in a tv show that the coach is only responsible before and after the cricket match but the captain assumes full responsibility during the match.
Take the example of Australia for instance. They were without their captain, Ricky Ponting on their tour to New Zealand and despite having world class players like Glen McGrath, Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey they were thrashed 3-0 by the New Zealanders despite posting two 300+ scores in the last two one dayers. Not only has Habibul Bashar been unsuccessful in keeping the team spirit up but his own performance in the world cup has been very subtle as well. In the 7 matches he has batted so far, he has shuffled himself almost to all positions in the batting line-up and has scored a total of 92 runs with an average of just 13.14. To make matters worse he has been run-out three times already.
It was clearly evident in the match against Ireland, that Habibul Bashar's own performance had taken a huge toll on him. His body language said it all with his shabby fielding and his ordinary batting. In contrast, this scenario was perfect for the vice-captain, Shariar Nafees to step-up and take off some of the pressures from the captain but alas he failed miserably as well. Despite being given a two-match break, he could not make amends and his lean patch in the world cup continues. In the six matches he has played so far he has scored a total of 31 runs with an average of 5.6. I sincerely believe that the time has come for the cricket board to make some changes in the leadership. I am quite confident such a change will definitely bring a positive outcome.
Maybe I am being too critical because compared to other world cups this has been Bangladesh's best so far having beaten world class teams like India and South Africa. Some of you might even feel that I am being too harsh at them for their poor performance against Ireland. However, after such good performances against the top teams in the world, such a performance against a country truly classed as a 'minnow' is truly unpardonable. We simply cannot shrug our shoulders and make excuses with remarks such as 'it was one of those days'. Quite frankly, we are the only team in the world with a lot of 'it was one of those days' syndrome.
I feel that we have reached a stage in cricket where we simply cannot overlook such performances. We have reached a turning point in Bangladesh cricket where every step is critical and some harsh comments and decisions have to be made if we want our beloved Bengal Tigers to be one of the elites in world cricket.