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Let actions roar
Mash in, Ash out

The T20 World Cup was yet another disappointing chapter in the history of Bangladeshi Cricket. The last edition of this series was memorable for the Tigers as they scored a historic 6 wicket victory over the ever formidable West Indies, but this time they failed miserably, falling victims to even minnows Ireland.

A lot of fingers have been pointed in recent days, at the selectors, the coach and finally the captain. Well, someone had to become the scapegoat and Ashraful was everyone's favorite for this position. Thus came the news of his dismissal as the captain of the national side. Was this the right move on BCB's part? Statistically speaking, this decision should have been taken much earlier. Of course, Ashraful terming the team's recent performance as satisfactory was the last straw.

When Ash is not playing ridiculous shots and finding out even dumber ways to get out, he spends his time brooding about why everyone blames him. Our former captain had a meager batting average of 23.87 in Tests and 23.00 whilst even former Zimbabwean skipper Tatenda Taibu has higher Test and ODI averages of 29.60 and 26.21, respectively. Dismal records are frequent, as under his leadership Bangladesh managed to win only 8 of 38 ODIs, most of the victories coming against lesser oppositions. If that isn't enough, how about the fact that of the 13 Test matches played under his leadership, Bangladesh managed to lose 12? In contrast, Habibul Bashar, the man who was forced out to make way at the helm for Ash, brought about Bangladesh's first test victory, averaged 30 up in tests, aimed at consistency and scored famous victories over Australia, India, South Africa and India and all that in 3 years. But an inevitable dip in form resulted in him being shown the door, despite protests from high levels, including stiff opposition to the move shown by former coach Dav Watmore.

True, Ashraful played some memorable knocks during his time at the peak, like his blistering 101 against Pakistan at the tender age of 17, which made him the youngest player ever to score a century. Inconsistency followed but he made up for it by scoring an incredible 158 against India and then soon proceeding to triumph over Australia by reaching double figures in the Natwest Series. Sure, he has incredible talent, but most of it has been wasted over the years, as the prodigy constantly battles with poor form.

After being handed captaincy at the fragile age of 22, Ashraful hardly managed to light up the stage, save a few occasions. Till date his success are those against New Zealand and Srilanka. The aforementioned figures tell the rest of the story. Even with a much more talented pool of players available, Ashraful could not produce enough satisfactory results and a sudden mass exodus of players didn't help matters. Ash's reaction to the criticism was slapping a fan, which earned him a fine. Not a very captain-like behavior, one must observe.

But all that's said and done. With the rebel players back, the no.1 all rounder in the form of Shakib in our midst and the Narail Express, Mashrafee Mortaza taking over captaincy, perhaps a new era beckons. With 103 ODI's and 35 Tests under his belt, the 25-year old is as experienced as can be hoped for in these dark times. With a proven determination to win, an already fearsome reputation with both bat and ball, Mortaza maybe the messiah we have been seeking, for so long. However, the 'Prince' is injury-prone and this will prove to be a crucial factor during his captaincy. However, one can expect him not to buckle under pressure, despite what IPL critics may tell you. Can Mashrafee emulate the other bowling/captain greats like Wasim Akram or Imran Khan. One thing is for certain, nothing but consistency will suffice. Half-victories are full losses, therefore wins is what the nation is looking for. The whipping boys of the cricketing world must now look to move perhaps just a few more steps up the ICC rankings ladder, a feat unachieved for far too long. No longer shall we satisfied with 'there has been improvement' or 'we tried our best'. No, now is the age for full blown victories and 'India tried their best, but we were always better than them.' Seems a bit far-fetched? Well, let us dare to dream, for only then can be achieve.

What remains to be seen is whether Mashrafee can lead with example, utilize the tremendous amount of talent at his disposal and if on the other side, the jaded Ashraful can regain his magical touch and consistently provide a few decent knocks. Whilst only the burden of captaincy falls on Mash's shoulders, surely Ash's career depends on his success. Now, only the bat and ball will be allowed to speak. Let's hope they are a better conversationalist than our former captain. West Indies await the wounded Tigers. Let actions roar.

By Osama Rahman

Heavenly shades of night are falling

And I am running, leaping over fallen trunks and slashing my way through the undergrowth, feet digging into the mulch as the creatures fall upon me in one swarming mass of putrid flesh. They curse wordlessly, sending up incoherent screams to the sky that freeze my heart. Branches snag on my clothes and cuts bleed freely but I am lost in the frenzy, and as the yellow moon waxes feebly on my numbered days I find myself dangling half out of my bed, the sheets wrapped around my legs, the alarm beeping insistently at my head.

My mother walks in, carrying with her the smell of eggs and vegetable oil. She glares disapprovingly at the mess my bed has been reduced to. 'I'm leaving for your grandparents' tonight,' she says. 'I don't know when I'll be back. I think it's time you and your sister decide who you want to be with.' She pauses for a second. I get the vague feeling she wants me to say something, but I keep quiet. 'Breakfast's on the table.' She shuts the door, blocking the sunlight coming from the windows in the corridor, and I am left to mull over my straying thoughts.

It is a veritable war zone, the kitchen; the haze of smoke obscuring the table from view, the tension palpable enough to taste. I root around the cabinets for my cereal while my father scowls at me over the rim of his tea cup and my sister pushes the eggs around on her plate with forlorn and distracted expression. 'I'm taking the car,' he says, 'so you'll just have to walk to university.'

'I don't mind,' I say. The sun, already creeping up above the clouds, leaves me momentarily blind, but the last thing I want is for my parents to have another showdown about custodial rights, even though they are sort of redundant regarding me.

And yet, when I finally step out on the steaming asphalt, I regret my decision already. The sun is brutal, and the twenty-minute walk to class takes forever. By the time I reach the quad I am a sweating mess, and when an ice cream-wala pedals by me I reach into my wallet for a five-taka note and come up empty. It is wholly distressing.

I decide to skip hitting the library for my math final, opting instead to jog over to my friends sprawled over the limited space of the canteen. They holler out in greeting. 'You got the cards?' someone yells out. Someone else laughs sarcastically ['Him not having cards?? You kidding?'], and I pull out my well-worn deck and start dealing them out. It is the usual fare, the games of 29 that can drag on for hours, the predictable miseries of our lives forgotten in the unpredictability of the game. As the sun inches across the blinding blue sky we crumple in the heat, sweaty fingerprints on the faded paper, the empty bottles of Coke accumulating by our feet.

I have learned to love this feeling of cheerful abandon, the lazy hours spent in the canteen slapping down cards on the table, calling out for refills, getting up to help myself to the piping hot samosas that, hands down, are the best in the world. My friends pass around the plates. Someone or the other picks up the tab, and as games are called and lost we almost forget about my 12 o'clock final. It is the gap-toothed boy manning the counter who points it out to us. 'Don't you guys have someplace to be?' he says, and we bolt down the quad to our third-floor exam hall. I remember that I left my bag in the canteen. I rush back to get it.

I am late by ten minutes, the professor reminds me as I heave myself into the nearest chair. 'If you keep this up,' he starts, and then turns around without finishing the sentence. For a second I am sidetracked by the odor of garlic that clings to his clothes, but then he slaps down the exam paper on my table and I come down to earth. I am hardly in possession of my full mental faculty, the dozen samosas that I've consumed lying heavily in my stomach. The exam does little to put me at ease.

I am hopelessly lost, rifling through page after page, the hours of practice I put in last night fast evaporating into nothingness. 'I know this stuff,' I tell myself, but it is of no use. It trickles to my mind the fact that my fast plummeting grades can hardly withstand this, that another failing grade will surely flunk me out of university. My friends whisper cheats to one another as I crack silently under the pressure. I wonder, briefly, what my parents will think when I break the news. 'I dropped out of school,' I imagine telling them as my mother packs away the last of her things and my father glowers at her retreating back. I can picture my dad's ruddy, contorted, face, and the voluble swearing. Perhaps it will bring them together one last time, I think, as the minute hand on the clock scissors into place and the bell rings out. One can never know.

We pour out of the rooms, my friends and I, and head straight for the canteen. They are buoyant, celebrating the end of the finals, looking forward to the summer. They make plans, to go to Teknaf and Sylhet. They try to rope me in. 'It'll do you good,' they say. I deal out the cards and try not to grimace. First hand: jack, nine, ace and king. The corners of my mouth twitch with a faint hint of a smile.

Note: The title is taken from a story from a Stephen King book called Hearts in Atlantis. It is, without doubt, one of the best books ever written, irrespective of tastes.

By Shehtaz Huq and Dr. Who


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