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     Volume 4 Issue 30 | January 21, 2005 |

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Cover Story

A Triumph Against
the Odds


The long awaited moment finally came. The clock read 12:56pm. The calendar read Monday, 10th of January, 2005. Finally, Bangladesh registered their first ever win in test cricket. It was 10th of November, 2000 when Bangladesh, the youngest among the 10 test playing countries, played their first test match against the neighbouring India. Four long years and two months went by before Bangladesh could grab the long eluding victory on January 10 at MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong. The entire country burst into celebration the cricket crazy Bangladeshis finally got something to rejoice about.

It's been a gruelling journey -- from entry into the test fold to the maiden test victory. When the euphoria over getting test status started to fade as Bangladesh's performance in both small and longer version showed little improvement, the win against Zimbabwe gives them the long-awaited taste of beating an opponent. Its test record, especially, was getting horrific with every match; whoever the opponent was Bangladesh seemed doomed to suffer an innings defeat. At one stage there were even apprehensions that Bangladesh's test status might be withdrawn. Among 34 test matches Bangladesh have played since November, 2000, Bangladesh's best performance was three draws, that too with the assistance of rains, while losing the remaining 31.

Bangladesh's performance however showed a little upward year. Cynics, however, tried to spoil the party by alluding to the absence of some key white players in the touring Zimbabwe team, meaning the team did not have its full strength, which allowed Bangladesh to sneak in a victory. They may have a point but in the end a win is a win and opponent's failure to bring their best side cannot nullify the accomplishment.

For Bangladesh it was the total team effort that made the difference. Instances of brilliant individual performances in the past have been many like that of Ashraful's fantastic century against Sri Lanka (Ashraful had his name written in the record book as the youngest batsman to hit a test century), Rafique's 6 wicket haul against Pakistan or Pilot's three stunning catches behind the wicket. But those individual brilliant performances could not be transformed, so as to turn them into the team's success. The present members of the national team have been together for about a couple of years now and they have developed a good understanding among themselves and have better communication than it were possible with frequent changes in the composition of the team. As most of the players are young they gelled very well and developed into one cohesive unit.

Usually Bangladesh don't do well in all three departments--that is bowling, batting and fielding. Very often we have seen a good batting display getting spoilt by erratic bowling and disciplined bowling being wasted by sloppy fielding. This time around Bangladesh did better in all three categories. Dr. Nizamuddin Ahmed, former sports editor of The Daily Star and an elected BCB director, believes that the key factor to this success was good batting. "Bangladesh's bowling is usually good, but the batting often falters", he says. "This time Bangladesh made a big score in their first innings which put Zimbabwe under tremendous pressure from which they never recovered". Dr. Ahmede is also a key figure who on behalf of BCB made the crucial presentation before the ICC (International Cricket Council) asking permission for one-day status in 1997. In 2000 Ahmed was also the one who made the presentation pleadingfor Bangladesh's test status.

Reactions to the test victory, of former captains of the Bangladesh National team, its coach and former BCB president give an encouraging scenario for Bangladesh's cricket future.

Naimur Rahman Durjoy
Naimur Rahman Durjoy was the captain in the first test match Bangladesh played. The date was 10th of November, 2000. After more than four years as Bangladesh register their first ever test victory, Durjoy is no longer in the team. Though his international career seems to be over, Durjoy is still playing for one of the most popular clubs of the county, Abahani. On that historic day, Abahani was playing a match at BKSP. Durjoy was sitting in the dressing room and watching his team's progress. But when Bangladesh was nearing what would be a sure shot victory he found it hard to keep his concentration in his own match and started to make frequent visits to the television room. "As I saw the last few moments I was overwhelmed with a sense of great happiness. I have been waiting for this moment since we played our first test match in November, 2000," he says. Durjoy believes the win was due to total team effort where everybody contributed.

The turning point, says the former captain, of the match was the big score of the first innings and the first three wickets of Zimbabwe's second innings that fell towards the afternoon session of the fourth day. He also gives credit to the team management. "There was a plan, and right from the beginning they stuck to that plan," he points out. He is very hopeful that Bangladesh will repeat their good work in the Dhaka test too and win the series.

Akram Khan
Under the guise of a rather un-player like bulky physique and lazy posture Akram Khan is unarguably one of the most hard-hitting batsmen Bangladesh have ever produced. He captained the national side when Bangladesh won the ICC championship and subsequently earned the one-day status.

When the former national captain is asked about his feelings at the Bangladesh's maiden test victory, he struggles for a few moments before finally speaking out. "I don't know how to best express my feelings. I felt extremely excited, it was absolutely fantastic. Bangladesh, which is often referred to as a country of poverty, corruption and natural calamities by the outside world, is now being respected for their cricketing prowess," he says.

Akram doesn't think this victory was unexpected. Bangladesh deserved the win. "Bangladesh have been playing well for the last couple of months. Especially against a strong side like India, Bangladeshi players played with great confidence. They put up a good fight in the test matches and they not only won a one-dayer, but gave India a really hard time. So this win was very much expected and the result of consistent good performance," he observes. Akram expressed his appreciation of the players, management, control board people as well as those who had been associated with cricket in the capacity of players, coaches, organisers etc. since our independence. "Because, our cricket has reached this stage passing through a lot of ups and downs and whatever we have achieved today could not be achieved if everyone did not do their bit," he says.

Minhazul Abedin Nannu
Another former captain of the national team Nannu, a right hand batsman and an occasional slow medium pacer, has these words to say: " It is an extraordinary feeling, I don't know how to translate them into words." One of the finest batsmen we have ever had Nannu was a proud member of the Bangladesh team that in their maiden World Cup appearance beat a much stronger Pakistan.

Nannu regrets not being able to make it to the stadium as he had a Premier League match on the fifth day of the first test match. He, however, kept himself updated about the match while doing the fielding. "We badly needed this victory. The way our national team has been losing matches one after another the morale of the national players has been very low. They were not being able to play five days and losing badly within three days. Things became so bad that people both at home and abroad were raising questions about the justification of awarding Bangladesh test status. This victory will certainly dispel that derogatory attitude towards Bangladesh's capability," he expects.

Nannu believes the present team is very well organised. "The real strength of the team is the team spirit. Our players have gelled well and it's not eleven individuals that are playing but one team, the Bangladesh team, that is playing now," identifies the key factor to Bangladesh's success.

Gazi Ashraf Lipu
A fine batsman and an occasional spin bowler Gazi Ashraf Lipu is often believed to be the shrewdest skipper Bangladesh national team has ever played under. "I am extremely happy at this win. Our boys have shown in Chittagong that if we keep faith in them they won't disappoint us," he says.

When asked what the secret behind this win of Bangladesh is, Lipu echoes Akram's views. "Bangladesh have been playing well in the recent months, especially in the last three outings in Australia, Pakistan and West Indies. The win against Zimbabwe is just the continuation of that good performance," he says.

This victory has done a world of good to the national team. "A win makes one believe in his ability and I have no doubt that after this win Bangladesh is a better team now," Lipu says confidently.

Dave Whatmore
Dave Whatmore, the national team coach, is a relieved man now. Regarded as one of the craftiest men in the business of coaching, Whatmore's appointment in 2003 created quite a buzz. But things didn't work out at least as good as many of the cricket followers would have loved to see. Dave, whose two years contract is scheduled to expire soon, has himself been in a not so comfy position. For Whatmore the win could not have come at a better time.

"I am extremely satisfied," he says. "Each of the players has done his best to earn the victory." He, however, has reserved a special mention for the spin wizard Enamul Haque Jr. "Enamul is the find of the series. He is a talented spinner and an able partner of the veteran spinner, Md Rafique," he says. Team spirit, he believes, is what differentiated Bangladesh's performance in that particular match. He is also full of praises about Bashar's captaincy. "He has led the team very well. I have a good understanding with him, while he also enjoys full confidence of his team mates. He is very considerate to all and treats everybody equally. Such attitude of the captain has greatly contributed to the team spirit," he points out.

Players and coaches alone cannot bring about success in any sports if there aren't devoted organisers at both national and local levels. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, an industrialist, politician and a passionate cricket fan, is one of those who has pushed Bangladesh cricket many steps further up the ladder. Bangladesh got both their one-day status in 1997 and test status in 2000, during Saber's tenure as the President of BCB. Saber is believed to be the man whose aggressive and zealous campaign won Bangladesh both the status. However, Bangladesh's bad performance in test gave Saber's critics the perfect opportunity to take jabs at him. But, as Bangladesh scored their maiden test win Saber came back strongly: "Where are those people who have been criticising us for getting test status?"

While Saber is ecstatic over the victory, he emphasises that this success will have to be maintained. Both Saber and Ahmed believe that due attention should be paid to our local cricket. "We will have to take cricket outside Dhaka and spread it to the district and even thana level if we are to sustain our good work. Initiatives should be taken to arrange school cricket regularly," points out Ahmed. Saber also advocates introducing 3 day and 4 day matches in the league without which he believes our players will never have the test temperament.

Bangladesh, with their 226-run win over Zimbabwe at Chittagong on January 10, 2005, registered their maiden victory in their 35th Test. With this win, New Zealand's unwanted record of registering the first win in their 45th Test, would be intact in Test annals.

Photo: AFP and Star File

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