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    Volume 11 |Issue 49| December 14, 2012 |


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An Encouraging Year for Cricket

Naimul Karim

Photo: Star File

The West Indies tour of Bangladesh may have ended with an 18-run loss for the hosts, but going by the reactions of both opener, Tamim Iqbal and the West Indian captain, Darren Sammy, at the post-match press conference on Monday, it was quite evident that the hosts were the more content side. Mahmudullah Riyad's six off the last delivery of the T20 match that day, in a way, summed up the one-month long series for Bangladesh.

The positive ambience of the Bangladeshi dressing room, despite a losing end to the tour, spoke for itself. In fact all the senior members of the squad, right from the captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, to the veteran Abdur Razzak, were of the opinion that the games in this series produced some of the best performances in the history of Bangladesh's cricket.

Tamim Iqbal went one step further and stated that Bangladesh played their 'best cricket' this year. “Right from reaching the finals of the Asia Cup in March to winning against a team that recently became world champions. We finally won a series based on team effort,” said the left-handed opener at the end of the one day international series (ODI) this week.

And despite Sammy's repeated claims that they never took Bangladesh 'lightly', it was quite obvious that the visitors were taken by a surprise. The West Indians, of course weren't the only ones. Bangladesh's confident approach in the ODI series was something that very few could have foreseen. The 2-0 whitewash in the Test matches lead many to believe that the series was going to follow a path similar to the previous tours: Bangladesh were going to fight hard, but in the end would fail to cross the line.

The above theory was almost confirmed after the hosts gave in the first Test primarily due to one bad session, on the last day of the game. A disappointing performance in the second Test made it seem like there was no way back for the hosts.

But as it so happened, the series did turn around as the ODIs began. And the rare attacking mindset of the team management played a definite role behind the turn of events. Bangladesh went into the first game with four uncapped players. A decision which would have been widely criticised had the hosts lost the game.

While Shohag Gazi and Abul Hassan had good runs in the Tests and had an idea about the visitors, making the youngsters, Anamul Haque Bijoy and Mominul Haque , play their first game against a bowling attack that included the likes of Sunil Narine and Kaemar Roach, could have always backfired. The selectors could have very well opted for a Jaharul Islam or turn back to Shahriar Nafees to occupy the opening slot, but they stuck to the 19-year-old Bijoy and the 'brave' decision proved its worth.

Bijoy went on to score a century in only the second game of his career and lead Bangladesh to their biggest ever victory, in terms of runs. He became the third Bangladeshi teenager to reach the three figure mark; a task accomplished before by Tamim and Shakib Al Hasan.

While the other debutant, Mominul may not have had a 'Bijoy-like' beginning to his international career, his batting technique and his ability to stand up for the team when required were quite evident.

Photo: Star File

His contribution in the pressure-filled fifth ODI, the game which was going to decide the fate of the series, was immense. The game witnessed a brilliant performance from West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard, who it seemed had regained his aggressive batting form in that match. Almost every Bangladeshi bowler was hit out of the park. With no one else to go to, Mushfiqur handed the ball to Mominul, who eventually got Pollard out with a ball that stayed low and hit the timber.

Mominul's contribution didn't just end there. In his very next over he got Sammy caught in the slips and initiated a collapse. When it was Bangladesh's turn to bat, the player entered the scene with Bangladesh reeling at 133 for 5. The hosts had just lost their most reliable batsman, Mushfiqur. However, Mominul along with Nasir Hossain shared a timely half-century stand, which laid the steps for a late attack from Gazi.

What perhaps made the series win even better was the fact that the almost every player in team contributed to the victory. The absence of Shakib Al Hasan, for instance, was filled with a timely performance from Mahmudullah Riyad. The Mymensingh-based cricketer, who traditionally batted at number 7, was promoted up the order in the last game. The 91-run stand between him and the captain revived Bangladesh from a tricky 30 for 3.

He scored 151 runs in the four innings that he batted and also picked up eight wickets, a performance which would have even made Shakib proud. “I think this has arguably been my best series so far. The absence of Shakib meant that the senior players had to stand up and that's what I tried to do,” said Riyad at the end of the fifth ODI. While he was always known for his ability to bat with the tail, in the recently concluded series, he showed the approach and ability of a top-order batsman. It was his form which made the team management send him up the order for the lone T20 game, a match where he remained unbeaten on 68.

All said and done, Bangladesh's ODI performance in this series can be considered as a continuation of their good run from the Asia Cup. Despite the early exit from the T20 world cup and a 2-0 drubbing in their only Test series of the year, they beat India, Sri Lanka and West Indies this year. Up next, the players will get back to domestic cricket for a month after which the second edition of the Bangladesh Premier League is scheduled to begin. There next international series is an 'away' tour to Sri Lanka, in March, where they play two Tests and three one-dayers.

There are however, a number of issues that the Bangladesh Cricket Board needs to address. The four-team franchisee domestic competition which is scheduled to begin any time next week, the fate of the interim head-coach Shane Jurgensen and the board's elections are some of them.

Having had such a positive end to the year, one would hope that the learning curve for the cricket team continues in the positive direction. As Tamim Iqbal in a press conference on Monday stated, “As a team we can improve by accomplishing goals. The only way we can improve in Tests is by playing more of them and knowing how to win those games.”

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