The sea of green jerseys in the crowd had put up everything at stake to support their favourite team on field. Every blow of a wicket of the opponent called for a thunderous shout to cheer and inspire the Bangladesh team. As of filing this report, the minnows have performed their best to reach the finals of the Asia Cup 2012, where it plays Pakistan, after a fierce fight they put up against India and Sri Lanka, chasing hefty totals on both the occasions.
This past week has been a momentum for thousands of Bangladeshi cricket-loving enthusiasts, as Bangladesh made to the finals of the Asia Cup 2012. With joyrides across the country and outside, Bangladeshi supporters have kept their hopes and spirits high just as much as the national cricket team lived it up on the field.
The tournament marks some historic moments for Bangladesh’s cricket. This is the second time Bangladesh has made it to the finals of any international tournaments. The victories were a collective effort of the entire team, comprising of the bowling attack as well as the batting partnerships. Interestingly, Tamim Iqbal, who secured a place in the national squad in the last minute after a dramatic turn of events, put up a fight in every match by scoring three consecutive half-centuries in the tournament.
Apparently history was to be made during the match between Bangladesh and India at the Asia Cup 2012, where team India could ‘score 444 runs’, according to Indian media speculation. ‘Bombs were to shower in over Bangladesh’ as it played India, according to a clip of Indian sports news speculation uploaded on Youtube. ‘Sachin Tendulker could well break Virender Sehwag’s 219-run record and Virat Kohli’s blasts will put Bangladesh in tatters’.
Amidst ambitious speculation against the minnows, Bangladesh woke team India out of its deep slumber full of dreams into a reality it could barely digest. Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan’s victorious innings against India not only winded up India’s game in the tournament but also gate-crashed Tendulker’s celebration for his 100th international century.
For many Bangladeshi cricket fans, the win against India has meant to put a tight slap on the face of some of the Indian cricket commentators for their unprofessional and overconfident attitude. Simply put, according to one cricket fan on espncricinfo.com, ‘The fact needs to be accepted that they (India and Sri Lanka) were not the best in the tournament and hence they could not make it to the final.’
Bangladesh, being the minnow in a quadrangular series consisting of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, put up a marvelous show withstanding the pressure against the world champions, chasing a heavy total against India and falling prey to the Duckworth-Lewis method because of a rain interruption during the match against Sri Lanka.
Scores of messages poured in on social networks like facebook and twitter hailing Shakib Al Hasan for his remark, ‘Nothing is impossible’, after winning against Sri Lanka. Cricket being the most loved game in the country, the hype and excitement run high among the supporters, every time Bangladesh performs well.
The tournament has given the supporters value for money and a realisation of how team efforts can take Bangladesh to any height.
Against the tide
In spite of a slow development of the overall performance, the team spirit and its chronological achievements have put a stop to the mouths of critics who have been up for seizing Bangladesh’s test status. In response to their remarks, former captain and a selection committee member, Habibul Bashar says, ‘Many of us forgot, it took 20 years for India, one of the best test playing nations, to win its first test match against England at Madras in 1951-1952.’ ‘Compared to India,’ he adds, ‘Bangladesh is rapidly developing their skills.’
Bangladesh started its 2009 cricket calendar with a tri-series involving Sri Lanka. In spite of defeating Sri Lanka in the group stage and reaching the finals, it fell short of the championship.
According to a report on espncricinfo.com, ‘Bangladesh has always been capable of one-off upsets, catching the bigger teams on an off day, but rarely have they been able to string together a series of strong performances.’
‘We never played well in the Asia Cup so it is really big,’ says Shakib, one of the world’s top batsmen. In the report, Shakib highlights the difference between the current team and the ones in the past, when Bangladesh were involved in lots of so-near-yet-so-far losses. ‘I think when we talk in the dressing room it is like, 100 runs in 20 overs is no problem. This is the sort of confidence that we have now,’ the cricket website quotes Shakib.
Very rarely has the country witnessed a balancing squad that could tackle the batting in compliance with the bowling or vice versa. Although Bangladesh still struggles with its bowling, the batting lineup has secured a stable position for a while now.
Says espncricinfo.com, ‘Their (Bangladesh’s) recent successes are due, in large part, to the presence of a world-class allrounder in their side, who wins them a lot of games and has been the team’s most consistent batsman and best bowler over the past three years. They also have an opener who succeeds more than he fails, a captain who is growing in stature as a match-winner, a set of pace bowlers who are inspired by a man roundly applauded as the bravest cricketer in the country, spinners aplenty, and a bunch of other batsmen who can, at least at times, look like they belong at the top level.’
It is a challenge for the Bangladesh Cricket Board therefore, to maintain this lineup and build up a pool of cricketers that can fit in to the requirements of the national squad.
Pulling the strings straight
Twelve years have passed since Bangladesh secured its test status and has gradually matured in the game of cricket. The internal conflicts with the board pertaining to selection and dropout of players have cost the team heavily in the past and continue to pose a threat in even in the present.
The latest episode was when Bangladesh Cricket Board president AHM Mustafa Kamal intervened in the selection committee decision to drop Tamim Iqbal from the 15-member squad of Asia Cup. Tamim’s enrolment in the team remained uncertain until the last minute because of Kamal’s reservation with his fitness and performance.
As Tamim’s way was eventually cleared into the national squad, after serious fallout in the selection committee with Chief Selector Akram Khan resigning and joining back, Tamim’s contribution in the games turned the tournament largely in favour of Bangladesh.
Raqibul Hasan, a former selection committee member tells Xtra, ‘His interference in the team selection takes cricket back to the old days when club officials unashamedly dropped cricketers from national team. It is truly unacceptable for our cricket.’
During the last three years of Kamal’s rule, bizarre events have occurred within Bangladesh cricket team and its board. Kamal, a ruling party lawmaker, was appointed BCB president on September 23, 2009. As he got some organisational background, expectation has been very high from him. But his last three year in the job was marked with more argument than achievements.
Kamal first hit the headlines when he got into a controversy with the then-skipper Shakib al Hasan, criticising the national cricket team. It was very embarrassing that at the end Shakib had to apologise for his reaction. Kamal was also embarrassed to have announced the name of Lance Klusener as the new bowling coach, without consulting with the team and or making agreements with Klusener.
His recent interference pushed the Chief Selector Akram Khan to resign from his post. Akram had resigned from his post when Kamal interfered in the selection of the national squad for the Asia Cup 2012. Akram Khan reconsidered his post upon a request from the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He hoped that the recent incident with him will bring an end to such interference in the selection committee’s decision.
Kamal also entered in controversy after the recent amendment in the BCB constitution that barred cricketers from becoming councilors. The former and present cricketers express concern over the decision and ask restoration of 15 cricketers’ councillorship as soon as possible.
‘Only a professional cricketer knows what might bring prosperity in cricket. This sort of decision will not bring a good future for our cricket,’ says Raqibul Hasan.
To summarise the experience of Asia Cup in a nutshell, it has shown the current team’s ability to perform against heavyweights. What is required now within and outside the team is coherence among the selection committee, the board and the national squad. The current team is very young and has a lot of time to deliver for the country. Provided there is integrity among the players on and off the field, it will usher in more opportunities for the country to perform better in the coming days.
-The story was first printed in New Age Xtra on March 23, 2012