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March 6, 2003, 05:09 PM
What Went Wrong

Athar Ali Khan

Everyone was expecting Bangladesh to win at least two matches in the cricket World Cup. I was also very optimistic of watching our boys playing at the best of their abilities but, to our utter shock, they performed much below par.

"Why?" was be the first question the cricket loving millions were asking after Bangladesh returned in ignominy from South Africa.

To start with, I would like to ask the present selectors if they had picked the best team for the competition? I believe they did not.

Players like Javed Omar, Naimur Rahman, Akram Khan (who later flew to South Africa as a replacement for paceman Mashrafee bin-Mortuza) and Aminul Islam were overlooked. The management did not even bother to play the side's premier all-rounder Khaled Mahmud in the practice matches in Namibia and South Africa. When he was finally given a chance, Mahmud, known as the man for crisis, played his hearts out.

How could the team management drop someone like Mahmud who loves to perform under pressure? The selectors even had the audacity to drop Mohammed Ashraful (the only player to sore a fifty in the World Cup for Bangladesh) from the tour to South Africa before the tournament.

Looking back, Bangladesh's performance leading up to the World Cup was encouraging. They beat Namibia in a five match series 4-1 and chased 250 odd runs against the strong KwaZulu Natal in Durban. The same Natal side had earlier beaten India in another practice game.

My point is that if we could beat sides like Namibia and Natal, there's no reason why couldn't do the same to Canada and Kenya. Perhaps the reasons for our failure were lack of commitment, responsibility, application, determination, patience, belief and adaptability to seam-friendly South African wickets.

I don't think the selectors understood the meaning of bowler-friendly wickets. Such a wicket helps the fast bowlers initially and then settles down after an hour or two to become a good batting track with even bounce. To survive on those wickets we needed someone like Javed who had the technique and patience.

The selectors always surprise me. In 1997 when we won the ICC Trophy, cricket broke free from the shadow of football and became the number one sport in the country. Surprisingly, the selectors dropped 6 or 7 members of that ICC Trophy winning squad when they picked the side for the subsequent Asia Cup held in Sri Lanka in 1997. That way, they broke the backbone of the team. If we look at Kenya, they still have six players in the present World Cup squad who had played in the ICC Trophy in Kenya 1994.

Before going to the World Cup in 1999, the selectors wanted to bring in young blood in place of experienced players and there started the trend of replacing experience with youth. Even back then, our selectors refused to show patience with a settled squad knowing fully well that Bangladesh would be participating in the next World Cup and probably get the Test Status.

Too many unwanted changes have taken place with our present squad. Players were selected and dropped regularly which created a very difficult and tense situation. No one was sure whether he would be playing the next game if he failed in the previous match.

One must understand that even established players can fail too. Somebody should have lifted our players' confidence following a loss so that they could come good in the next match. I doubt any selector had done that though.

After the team's miserable showing in the recent World Cup, the BCB and the selectors have changed their opinion regarding young players. Now they will probably want more experience in the team.

It has been 6 years since we won the ICC Trophy and four years since we won a one day international. Our last moments of glory were against Scotland and Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, thanks to Minhazul Abedin who was not even in the primary squad of 20 players for this World Cup despite scoring heavily in domestic cricket.

Without getting into the debate on which people should be axed from the BCB, let's try to pinpoint the factors that contributed to our disastrous campaign and what we can do to avoid such catastrophe in the future.

The Bangladesh team had a coach, a batting coach, a physical trainer, a physiotherapist, a sports psychologist and a manager. Even with the help of all those people, things only got worse for the team.

Before blaming the support group, we should understand that once they step inside the ground, the players are solely responsible for their actions.

Our top order batsmen repeated the same mistakes and kept on fishing outside the off stump as if they were playing in the slog overs. Patience and partnerships are the main requirements while batting in South Africa. On paper our strength was batting but I think our bowlers did a more commendable job in South Africa.

Sporting wickets always pose problems for our batsmen as they never play a full season on tracks that give bowlers an equal opportunity.

To make sure we do not make the same mistakes again we should start preparing bowler-friendly wickets not only in Dhaka but also all over Bangladesh.

We all know that the Bangaban-dhu National Stadium can never be a cricket-only venue because of all the politics associated with it but how about turning the pitches at the Dhanmondi Cricket Stadium, Fatullah and the nice grounds at the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan (BKSP) into more bowler-friendly ones?

Pitches should be improved not just for the national team but also for grassroots level to the different age levels and leagues on a compulsory basis.

We must also have a vision and a set ourselves targets. For example, we have four years to the next World Cup and the BCB should set a goal regarding where Bangladesh ought to be by 2007.

The Premier Division clubs play a very big and important role for breeding players. They should have their own cricket grounds with proper cricket facilities so that all clubs are able to play home and away games. Another very important aspect is the first class schedule. These longer version matches should be held on a regular basis. It will teach us how to build our innings and confidence, bat for hours in the middle and understand the game better. Players will benefit immensely from playing first class games. Without a good first class structure, it is impossible to compete at international level.

I still believe our boys are capable of playing competitive cricket against the top Test playing nations. I hope that they will show their true potential sooner rather than later. To do that, it will require lot of hard work, proper training facilities, determination and self-belief.

Selecting the right coach is very important too. He should be someone who will understand the psychology of our players, our culture, our people and their emotions. I can't help feeling that a local coach has a better chance of achieving results with the Bangladesh squad rather than a foreigner.

Hopefully, with the right vision and proper guidance, we will see cricket in Bangladesh again get back on its feet.

---The writer is a former national cricketer

March 7, 2003, 05:36 PM
At this point of time, there couldn't have been a better article than this.

Politics can be the number one game inside Bangladesh, but when you go international, you need to have talent, hardwork, patience, determination and motivation.


You can't solve all the problems with emotion and muscle power. There are things called analysis, calculation, perception, forecasting, intelligence etc.

Please create a Cricket Academy in Bangladesh where cricket will be thoroughly discussed and analysed. No matter who the selector is, he/she will have to graduate from the Cricket Academy to be able to qualify as a selector.

Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, politics has controlled everything. And the result is THIS//////////