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al Furqaan
March 7, 2007, 05:43 PM
A lot has been talked about this upcoming World Cup 2007. Much of the chatter was legitimate concern over Bangladesh's "cupcake" schedule over the past year or so. Since 2006, we have played 34 ODIs, of which only 8 were against the top teams. Bangladesh's record was a minnow bashing 22-4 against the weaklings of international cricket, and a very humbling 1-7 against the top dogs.

However, only one thing was learned by playing such a soft schedule which would not have been possible if we had played mostly against big teams. This was the mental aspect which allows good teams to win games in clutch situations. Such psychological fortitude is necessary for success in sports. Close wins against Zimbabwe and Canada earlier this year, paved the way for a repeat victory against New Zealand. The Kiwis had just beaten 3-time (2 time back to back defending) world champions Australia 3-0 less than a fortnight ago.

Yesterday's win against New Zealand proved that by first testing our nerve against minnows, we learned to keep our cool against a major world cricketing powerhouse. It also allayed any fears that Bangladesh were not prepared to fight this World Cup battle, after some major jitters against Zimbabwe, Bermuda, and Canada within the last month.

Most importantly it highlighted that no matter how perform one day, game day is all that matters. Thus it is imperitive that come our games against India, Sri Lanka, and Bermuda; our boys are know what to do. Thus, I present what I feel is our best possible war plan.

The very first thing which needs to be addressed is the playing XI. Which 11 players make the cut and which 4 do not. Obviously arbitrary biases hurt not only the players, but the team as well. Therefore, there must be adequate reasoning for or against anyone's inclusion or exclusion form the starting XI. Here is my squad:

1) Shahriar Nafees
2) Tamim Iqbal
3) Aftab Ahmed
4) Saqibul Hasan
5) Habibul Bashar
6) Mohammad Ashraful
7) Mushfiqur Rahim
8) Mohammad Rafique
9) Mashrafee bin Mortaza
10) Abdur Razzak
11) Syed Rasel

The Squad

Nafees' spot is written in stone and no one argues about that. Tamim's place is probably nearly as unanimous and here is why. Tamim has proven that he can attack against good teams. Smashing Shane Bond's 95 mph out of the park is no laughing matter. He is still very much "jodi laggai jai", don't get me wrong. But the alternatives are Javed and Rajin, neither of whom can get us off to a decent start. If Tamim gets out cheaply, its not a big deal because we have Aftab at #3 who will blast around for at least 30 runs or so and if we're lucky he could get a 50 or 60 and the RR will most certainly be around 5 or 6 an over.

If we go the Javed or Rajin route this is what happens. Javed and Nafees, or Rajin and Nafees will both start out slowly. As a result the first 5 overs might only see 15 runs. At least one batsman will get out, and pressure builds on the brittle middle order to accelarate which leads to more top order diarhhea.

Nafees' slow batting is no problem for 2 reasons. Firstly, he plays the sheet anchor role, and their is room for at most 2 anchors in a side. Secondly, Nafees has the ability to accelerate when the time is right. Javed and Rajin cannot.

So I think the role for both Tamim and Aftab will be to fire away and hopefully they can take us to 100-2 after 20 overs. This drastically reduces pressure on the middle order. If we are utterly lucky, the score might be 120-1 after 20 overs.

Enter the middle order of Saqib, Bashar, Ashraful, and even Mushfiq. Saqib fulfills the other anchor role, though he is largely untested against quality attacks. We can be reasonably sure that he won't contribute to a collapse because his temperment is solid and temperement, even without skill, will take you a long ways (just as Javed). Bashar has really been running between the wickets poorly, but if he can score 20 or 30 quick runs, as he has been doing nowadays, Ashraful can shine in the last 10-15 overs.

Ashraful is best suited at his late middle order spot for the forseeable future. Yes, it is a tremendous disservice to his talent to bat way down at #6, but he is enjoying it, and most importantly he seems to be finding his niche. The pressures of being the lone hero were too much for him. Along with Rafique, and Mortaza, he should ensure that Bangladesh get a 250ish score at least.

Mortaza's batting is another point which I want to harp on. He may be a mug on sporting wickets, but on the subcontinent-like slow tracks of the Carribbean, he could be a huge boon. Scoring 50 runs in the last 5 overs never looks a tall task with him in middle.

Bowling wise, it is going to be Mashrafee and Rasel opening, with Rafique and Razzak spinning. The 5th bowler will be either a combo of Saqib, Aftab, and possible Ashraful as well.

As much as I would like a bowler who could fling 140 k missiles at Ganguly's head, Shahadat is out of form. His line and length is just not there. He still ranks above Tapash in the depth charts, and should Rasel struggle against India, I wouldn't hesitate inserting him into the XI for the do-or-die match against Sri Lanka.

I would rate Sri Lankan batsman as weaker against quality pace, especially on a seaming wicket, and thus we may even play all 3 of Mashrafee, Rasel, and Shahadat against the Lions.

Game-time Strategies

We will have to watch the Sri Lanka-Bermuda match to see how the pitch behaves in the 2nd innings. If there is no appreciable deterioration, I say that we should opt to field first if we win the toss against India.

Firstly, the Indians are expert chasers. They ran down opponents a record 18 straight times just about a year ago. Further, with their star-studden lineup even a target of 350 is not safe, and our boys won't be anywhere near 350. Secondly, remember the Lords Test from 2005? Remember when we all decided it would best for Bangladesh to field first to settle the nerves? Well, no matter what Nafees says about these being just "another game," our boys will be nervous. But so will the Indians. Why not make them bat first. Guys like Sehwag, Uthappa, Yuvraj, Dhoni will all be anxious to prove themselves. Keep them guessing; they won't know how many runs is safe. Thirdly, by chasing, we will know exactly how many runs we need to get. We must remember that net run rates are of no use to us if we don't win.

For the Sri Lanka match, we can pretty much use the same strategy. A few of the differences are that the Lankan batsman might be more suceseptible to swing and seam bowling. Thus, it might be a good idea to include both Rasel and Shahadat at the expense of Razzak (Rafique's experience and batting get him the lone spinner spot). Against Lanka, it may also be wiser to bat second since Jayasuriya can single-handed chase a small target. It will also be easier on our batsmen's nerves to chase.

As for the Bermuda match, this should be an easy win, though Bangladesh would be foolish to underestimate the Islanders. If we are in the unlikely position of a tie-breaker situation with India and Sri Lanka, we are in the most advantageous position of playing the final Group match. We will know exactly what run rate we must achieve to advance. Thus in this situation only, is it absolutely necessary that we bat first and post a massive score. The bowlers should take of the rest.

If we do qualify for the second round, the strategy there will be to merely keep doing what we did to get to the Super 8s to begin with, because then Bangladesh will be celebrating already.

al Furqaan
March 7, 2007, 05:43 PM
done...ready for publishing Dr. Z

:)

Farhad
March 7, 2007, 06:12 PM
Pretty good read from what Ive been able to gather. I'll wait till its complete

AsifTheManRahman
March 7, 2007, 09:00 PM
Well I've always thought that the only way we we can make it to the second round is through a combination of several factors working together in our favour. I don't believe we can win a match solely with our batting - expecting a 300+ score against either India or Sri Lanka is unrealistic.

If we are to win, they have to suck at batting, we have to bowl and field really well, and also really hold our nerves and get everything right with our batting. We can only win if we can restrict them - be it batting first or second. In that regard, the bowling has to be perfect, with pin-point accuracy if not a lot of flare.

With the way teams have been piling up runs lately, either india or sri lanka would have to have a really bad day with the bat alongside us bowling well. So overall, us qualifying for the super eights requires more of a "jodi laiga jaay" type of situation than anything else.

Besides, the fact that both India and Sri Lanka will be taking us seriously adds on to the pressure. Then again, I hope our players will be able to put the new-found confidence and the knowledge of how to keep their cool in pressure situations to good use.

BD Tigers
March 7, 2007, 09:39 PM
I agree w/ Al Furqaan we need to field first and restrict India in a small total. If we somehow can do that..our batsmen are capable enuf to chase an affordable target (around 250).

al Furqaan
March 7, 2007, 10:24 PM
to be honest ATMR,

i think we have progressed beyong the point of "everything has to click for us to win". we are now at the "some things have to click" stage.

b4:

- top order had to click
- middle order
- bowling pinpoint
- fielding clicks

now its more of a:

- middle must click
- bowling pinpoint
- fielding clicks

top order failing, whilst bad, will not necessarily rule us out. especially if our bowlers similarily take early wickets...
______

against NZ fielding and bowling clicked...top order clicked, but middle order failed. we still won. its gonna be tough as hell, but still possible to win with a single handicap. tho if 2 things fail to click, then we're screwed.

israr
March 8, 2007, 07:54 AM
Very good piece of work.