Dhaka Saturday December 31, 2011


It's that time of the year again. The holidays are upon us and thus it gives us ample time to reflect upon the year just past. But this has been no normal year for Bangladesh sports. With a World Cup hosted on home soil along with a golfer who travels all over the world and a group of women who have earned us the ODI status, it was not easy to pick nominees for our usual year end award; The Sports Personality of the Year 2011.

So on the first week of December 2011, The Daily Star Sport put the heads of its twelve members together and brainstormed to create and publish a shortlist of five sportspersons who have achieved the most in the calendar year of 2011. The voting was democratic. Each member submitted their list of top five and via a simple tally the final five were chosen. There was only a single criterion; the nominees would have to be Bangladeshi or would have to ply their trade for a significant amount of time in Bangladesh.

So after doing the hard work in coming up with the shortlist, we did what any democracy would do open it up for a public vote. The rest was up to you and you responded in kind. This is the result.

Staying on top

Sakeb Tahsin Subhan


For Shakib Al Hasan, 2011 has ended in much the same way as it began, with his status as Bangladesh cricket's most valuable and accomplished player not only intact, but enhanced. In between though, were periods of tumult he would not have experienced before.

While he won acclaim through his sustained brilliance as the Tigers' go-to man and with his stints with the Kolkata Knight Riders and Worcestershire, at home there were troughs: the mixed bag that was the World Cup and losing the national captaincy after the Zimbabwe debacle.

There were also the occasional moments of what can best be termed as arrogance, such as his gesture to the crowd after Bangladesh were dismissed for 58 by West Indies in Mirpur during the World Cup.

Through it all Shakib has maintained the one aspect that he should be judged on -- his performances on the field. And what could be a better end to a challenging year than to sign it off as the world's number one all-rounder in both Tests and ODIs?

His demotion from the captaincy could well be a blessing as being the best player and the man responsible for making all the on-field decisions and facing the media during the frequent failures, could have been proving taxing.

Perhaps this freedom empowered him to put in arguably his greatest performance on the international stage -- the 144 and 6-82 against Pakistan in his last Test of the year.

During that innings, he displayed a characteristic his teammates should take to heart. In the last series, against the West Indies, Shakib was guilty of playing a very irresponsible shot when in partnership with Mushfiqur Rahim he seemed to be steering the match, and the series, to an honourable draw. He came in for considerable flak because of his indiscretion.

Instead of sulking, Shakib put together one of the most assured and mature Test innings ever played by Bangladesh batsman. This hints at clarity of thought that seems all too often to elude his teammates, including that other superstar of Bangladesh cricket, Tamim Iqbal.

All told, 2011 is the year that has cemented Shakib's status as a leading light in world cricket's collective consciousness. His last act for the year has only served to engrave that impression deeper.

Shakib enters 2012 as the cricketer all his teammates must try to emulate, and as the Bangladeshi sportsman most likely to continue his upward trajectory in the international arena.

Finding his feet

Quazi Zulquarnain Islam


Classic second season syndrome, would be how football lovers describe Siddikur Rahman's second season in the golfing circuit. Riding the initial wave of optimism during a trail-blazing first season, the ward of Madaripur and the Kurmitola Golf Club in the capital beat all odds, social and geographical, to claim an Asian Tour event.

That win in Brunei brought a rapidly rising Siddikur into the public attention and affection and great things were expected in 2011. Unfortunately, this year has been more about Siddikur finding his feet as a cynical professional and as such consolidation has been the name of the game.

There have been no tour wins in 2011 and there were some startling lows too, that of Macau and Hong Kong. There have been some highs too; earning a solid 18th place finish in the Omega European Masters.

Most importantly there has been a steady progression, one that signals to that of a player who is setting his stall out, slowly and steadily to play this game successfully for a long time. Siddikur himself admitted as much, in an interview with The Daily Star Sport a couple of months ago, saying, 'I want to continue playing the game throughout the rest of my life'.

It is indeed possible. Golfers who maintain a rigorous physical routine can keep playing well into their 50s and 60s and comparatively, Siddikur at 27 is the bubbly new kid on the block. Who is to say he cannot continue on this same vein for another two decades barring any major mishaps?

Moments THAT Mattered

Against the tide

Shahnoor Rabbani

Salma Khatun

In a country where women participating in the male-dominated world of sport does not invite universal social approval, Bangladesh skipper Salma Khatun has certainly managed to break away from the mould and has to a certain extent proven all doubters and naysayers wrong.

Growing up in Khulna, Salma took an interest in cricket and would often play with her cousins in her neighbourhood. “I loved watching and playing cricket when I was a kid, even though my mom would scold me from time to time saying, 'This is a boy's game. It's not for you to be playing',” Salma said. ”But often I wouldn't listen to her because I loved it so much,” she added.

Salma has already shown why she might arguably be the best female cricketer to come out of Bangladesh so far with her all-round skills and her captaincy. There is no way to look past Salma's contributions to Bangladesh women's cricket. Her innings of 73 against the Irish in a must-win match and her inspired five-wicket-haul against the Japanese after defeat in the first match against Pakistan speak for her ability to lead from the front. Without those priceless contributions the Bangladesh women's team would probably not have achieved ODI status. What also cannot be discounted is her crucial bowling performance against the Irish taking 3 for 34 to defeat them in Bangladesh's first ever ODI.

Although she remains honest and humble, there is no denying that she has taken a brave career step in choosing to become a female cricketer in Bangladesh, where the sport is still in its infancy and is not the most lucrative either.

At just 21 years of age, she is already looked upon as a role model of sorts by girls who are interested in picking up the sport. “Often times I have parents calling me up and telling me their girls want to play cricket and ask for advice. I try and help them out whichever way I can,” she added. She herself has many cricketers she looks up to and would like to emulate. Among them her favourite players are Bangladesh's own Shakib Al Hasan, Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar and Australian legend Ricky Ponting.

Women's cricket in Bangladesh may still be in its early stages but Salma Khatun will always remain one of the pillars on which it has been built and her name will be entrenched in history for being the first ever Bangladesh women's cricket captain.

Kubra carries a message

Saveem Shama

Khadiza Tul Kubra

In a very short time, Khadiza Tul Kubra has made a name for herself. Her 18 wickets made her the second highest wicket-taker in the ICC Women's World Cup qualifiers in November, helping Bangladesh to the ODI status they so craved.

The number is impressive, letting her make more headlines than the rest of her teammates. And all of this sounds a lot better when one finds out that she is all of sixteen years old and hails from small-town Bangladesh; where finding a cricketer is a rare feat, let alone a female cricketer.

Kubra has come a long way both geographically and in terms of accomplishments from her hometown of Bogra. This bright teenager has a special connection with cricket very early in life.

Having started off playing with her brother in the Choklokman colony, Kubra began falling in love with the game. When she thought of trying it out properly, Kubra found her greatest support where it matters most for aspiring children in the country family members. Her parents, three siblings and grandfather has been her main push.

“My grandfather has been my greatest support, encouraging me to take up cricket. My family helped me shine and it is for them that I never faced any difficulties coming this far,” Kubra told The Daily Star Sport recently.

“According to my grandfather's suggestion, I joined the district cricket camp which the cricket board held in Bogra and got selected and made it to the women's national team”, she continued.

However, making it to the national team means that Kubra has to spend more time in the capital. Luckily for Kubra, her family's mindset is far from the stereotypical types that come from the outskirts and acts as a message to every family of talented girls in the country.

“I saw Kubra had great interest in cricket since her childhood and thought I should not make her sit at home. Instead we encouraged her to try out at the camp this year. It was the will of Allah that she got selected for the national team there and went this far,” said Jamil Akhtar, the proud father of the youngster.

It wasn't easy though; Salma Khatun, the national captain, gave her strength, especially at the beginning. “Kubra is an extremely nice girl. She was very nervous at first when she joined the squad this year as she is the youngest member, then I supported her and helped her overcome her nervousness, told her there is nothing to be afraid of,” she said.

Kubra is in her first year of college and her parents would support her picking either cricket or any other field as a career she wants to go for in the future. But right now, she loves the experience and all the other paraphernalia that tags along. “I cannot be happier being a part of the national squad. As I am the youngest member, everyone takes care of me and treats me really well and helps me in every step,” she said.

Curiously though, Kubra is a big help to those who have trouble being themselves. Battling her odds, the youngster should now be a model of determination, belief and effort.

All this can take a person to boundless heights. Just ask Kubra.

Hurdling challenges

Bishwajit Roy

Mushfiqur Rahim

The year just past was an eventful one for Mushfiqur Rahim.

In all the three formats of the game the Bogra-lad improved his performance, in particular the averages, significantly but he will likely remember this year as one where he transcended into becoming national captain; a dream for any cricketer.

In contrast to his keeping, the 23-year old has always been rated highly as a batsman because of his solid technique and ability to hit the ball hard when needed but yet, there is still a lingering suspicion that he has yet to prove his true potential in the middle.

However, it would be hard for any ardent follower to forget Mushfiqur's maiden hundred against Zimbabwe in August 2011. The fabulous knock provided evidence that the little man has got the ability to give Bangladesh's vulnerable middle-order some solidity, even though his team lost the match by five runs in keeping with a generally disastrous tour. There were some other sparkling knocks and he also looked better behind the stumps this year.

It was however not his individual performances, but the way he got the captaincy that hogged the spotlight. Mushfiqur was appointed captain for the two home series against West Indies and Pakistan following the whimsical decision of removing Shakib Al Hasan from the hot seat after the Zimbabwe debacle.

It would be unwise to judge Mushfiqur as a captain after only two series. It's not an easy task to lead a team like Bangladesh, especially in the longer version of the game. But yet, Mushfiqur made a dream start as captain when he led from the front with an unbeaten 41 to guide Bangladesh to a three-wicket victory over West Indies in the lone T20 International in October. It however took little time for Mushfiqur to feel the heat and pressures associated with the job, but not before the Tigers won one one-day match in the three-match series and showed rare character in the first Test against West Indies.

It could have been a fantastic year for Mushfiqur if the Tigers could have taken something away from the series against Pakistan. By courtesy of Shakib's wonderful all-round performance Bangladesh gave Pakistan a tough time in the second Test but still there were some hard questions to answer.

But one that was answered beyond any suspicion was questions about Mushfiqur's commitment and work ethics.

There were still whispers about his confidence in dealing with a crisis. And in the second Test against Pakistan Mushfiqur gave enough evidence that he was still struggling to cope with the pressure -- the missed stumping of Taufeeq Umar and the run-out of Shakib Al Hasan are cases in point. .

So, the challenge for the little man in the New Year will be to prove the critics wrong. But if we know Mushfiqur, it is something he has had plenty of experience doing.


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