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     Volume 4 Issue 50 | June 10, 2005 |

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Tigers… the endangered species

Capt. Ghulam Hussain

The first test match at Lords between a resurgent England and the 'famed' Tigers was a mismatch of the usual sorts, with many a curry-house inhabitant of London returning home bewildered at what exactly was ailing their team. The Tigers were belted (and pelted) by Vaughan and Co. It reminded me of a story from my childhood days, where the village wrestler takes the 'mighty' tiger by its tail and giving it a good twirl over the head, throws it far away into the bush. In "pucca" English, Bangladesh was simply "Drubbed and Dismissed. Rather disdainfully at Lords."

Millions watched the wretched pantomime and the parade that followed. That of irresponsible, nonchalant batsmen walking up to the crease and returning with indifference after a sputter and a short lived start. They flashed (the pun is not intended), drove, hooked, pulled, misplayed and miscued almost every ball, which left the bowlers hand. Supportive fans compromised and adjusted their level of expectation with each passing over. A time came when one began to doubt crossing the 100 run mark. When someone thanked God for crossing 100, the Devil sent a message back, "Without the extras, you could not have scored 100". When the die hards thanked God again for making it to Day three, The Devil replied, "I convinced Vaughan not to declare earlier". The critics and the 'pundits' renewed their clamour for the scalp of the "Test Cricket Status/Eligibility" of Bangladesh.

There are theories in defense, bizarre (and brazen), but we can overlook them in sympathy, since they came, like everything else, from a cluttered mind. A selected few of these were that the venue (Lords) was "overwhelming", the aspirations to perform were high, the weather was cold, the expectations were testing, the pitch was low, and the time factor to acclimatise was insufficient. But how does one explain the display of the Tigers' battings in the second innings…. or the middle order debacle in the first, orchestrated by those who had already witnessed what the pitch was doing to the opening pair?

The disappointment is not at loss itself but at how they lost. No sane follower of cricket would expect a straight forward win against present day England, (though miracles have been known do occur). An optimist can settle for a draw, the weaker, rational mortals, to an honorable loss. But the present display has left a lot to be desired. The feet were in wrong places at all times. While batting, they stood transfixed instead of doing the expected. In real life, they were never firmly on the ground.

A rap on the knuckles is in order, as is accountability. The oft-repeated song "We are a young side" holds no water any further. Nobody asked us to have a young side, nor are we to get handicaps for fielding a young side. In the interim, what exactly is expected from the fans? Are they expected to simply hope and pray for a collective transformation, to offer the present team the Marriott in London, the best coaching there can be, the best of facilities and allow them to perform in such an irresponsible manner? Heads would have rolled elsewhere. The team members should consider themselves lucky that they have a nation which is so supportive (for lack of other things to support) of them and that they are not baying for their blood (yet). More than simply statistics and records, more than simply individual brilliance, we need average consistency.

The skipper, Bashar, must be aware there is more to cricket than hooks and pulls. He must know the difference between aggression and defense, and when to adopt which. Javed contributes to the best of his ability, which however, is questionable in the long run, due to the age and fitness factor.

Mohammad Ashraful (simply Ashraf-"ul", which when translated means Ashraf-"of", is incorrect. Ashraf-of-what??? Arabic grammar does not permit a name to end with a preposition) has talent which is hardly utilised due to impudent shot selections. Nafees Iqbal, freshly graduated to the national team, should avoid giving egoistic public statements that English spinners are "ordinary". Aftab's attempt in emulating Afridi should be presently restricted in the test versions.

Rahim, a breath of fresh air, should keep his head and not be overwhelmed. The road is long and tough and many a spark has fluttered (ask Alok, Rajin or even Tapash) along the way. Khalid Mashud (I fail to find Mashud, pronounced the way it is presently done, as a word in the Arabic format either. The "h" is confusing) has the grit, but cannot afford to be carried away by comparing himself as the best wicket keeper in Asia.

The Hossain duo (bowlers) should know that a "pincer attack" means bowling in the vicinity at 90 mph, accurately. At the moment it is all run up and going "off steam" at the point of delivery. I am not even commenting on their accuracy, guile or the arsenal in their armoury, which will improve with time. Our "Narail Express" must shift from narrow to broad gauge. The locomotive that propels him was new but is wearing out fast. His batting capability has floundered and his bowling has been mediocre. Rafiq has given his best and one must know it is time the old workhorse grazed on greener pastures back home.

And the sooner each member packs away the fancy sunglasses, the better. The sun does not glare in the UK, not until mid July at the earliest. Nor do I (hopefully) wish to see Tapash do a Shane Warne by applying sunburn cream on the bridge of his nose. (It does not make anyone look fairer, either). Perhaps one can learn from Shiv Cpaul who is quite comfortable with neither and he does fight the glare perfectly while in the field.

Whatmore could not have had a better baptism. While we christened ourselves with the name Tigers, the name given by his ancestors ages ago seems to be a perfect one to reflect the present status of Bangladesh Cricket. When all alphabets are used, it forms two words, which asks but a crucial question. WHAT MORE? What more can we (or he) do, and what more are the fans to expect. (A routing by Zimbabwe on their "away" encounter with the "main" boys back in their team? Heaven forbid!).

The cubs in the lairs are curled and raring to go. We need a firm hand to guide them and train them to become real tigers. Survival is tough in the jungles. Unless something is done very quickly to curb the self-inflicting damages, which can be avoided, the Tigers, now endangered, may soon be extinct. And, much to our chagrin, the "opposition" does clamor (justifiably?) for the test status to be revoked. We hope sanity prevails and the critics' focus shifts elsewhere.

As I fumble with feeble remedies, I see a new blip on my radar screen. I 'acquire' the target and look for the co-ordinates. Is it the 2nd test against England?
The Aussies are yet to arrive………..

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