Desperately seeking a six-hitter!
Watching his batsmen struggling to accelerate under perfect batting conditions in the one-day international series against Pakistan, Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore must have wished he had a Ricardo Powell or a Shahid Afridi at his disposal.
The dearth of a striker, a specialist batsman who can throw his bat around and totally dominate the opposition bowling and clear the boundary on a regular basis, was the single most significant factor behind the Tigers' timid showing in the one-dayers and the jury is out that this team is a far better Test side than they are in the shorter version.
Indeed Bangladesh lacked that defining touch and paid heavily for it. Whenever the Pakistanis were in trouble or struggling to push the score, they had a Yousuf Youhana or an Inzamamul Haq to fall back on. Inevitably, Youhana, Inzamam or even Abdul Razzaq would come in and stroke the ball all around the park to take away the advantage from the tourists. On the other hand, Bangladesh would find themselves in positions which almost every other Test-playing nation would have capitalised on but just couldn't up the tempo when it was needed.
Bangladesh chased runs in four of the five one-day matches and apart from the no-contest in the first game, they could have really put Pakistan under pressure batting second in the other three if only one or two batsmen had showed a bit more bravado.
Hannan Sarker, Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali all made good scores throughout the series, all spent a lot of time out in the middle but when it was required of them to open their shoulders, they in turn just opened up the perennial deficiency of the side -- the absence of a six-hitter.
In Tests, this weakness doesn't pose that much of a problem because there is ample time to score the runs and there's hardly any need for going over the top too often. But it's altogether a different story in one-day games.
In world cricket, every other team posses two or even more individuals in their one-day batting orders with the ability to hit sixes whenever necessary.
Almost all the top-order batsmen in the Australian (Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Darren Lehmann, Damien Martyn), West Indian (Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Marlon Samuels, Rannaresh Sarwan, Ricardo Powell) and New Zealand (Nathan Astle, Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Scott Styris) lineups have big hitting abilities. India (Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Virendar Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh), Pakistan (Inzamam, Youhana, Razzaq, Younis Khan ) South Africa (Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock) England (Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Thorpe, Andrew Flintoff, Vikram Solanki), Sri Lanka (Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Upul Chandana) and Zimbabwe (Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Mark Vermeulen, Andy Blignaut, Heath Streak) too are well equipped.
Not having a single batsman with similar qualities has often forced Bangladesh to send tail-enders like Mashrafee-bin Mortuza or Mohammad Rafique to accelerate the scoring. The ploy hasn't worked so far.
So what prevents perfectly strong and fit youngsters like Saleh, Kapali, Mushfiqur Rahman or Tushar Imran from adding that extra dimension to their game?
There's no point in blaming the players for their inability to play big shots as often as we would like or more importantly, the team would like. They are just products of a system that is inadvertently destroying the natural flair in individuals.
Big hitting is an art and it is very different from slogging. You can't teach or coach a player to hit sixes, the urge has to come from within. But that urge is being strangulated.
The ever-growing popularity of cricket has seen a mushroom growth in the number of coaching clinics and coaches all over the country. Most of the coaches are forcing their pupils to bat straight and in an orthodox way while discouraging anything other than the ordinary. The result is a generation of 'decent' batsmen who play by the book but don't have the heart to be adventurous.
Our batsmen can't take the advantage of the first fifteen overs when only three fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle as they are afraid of going over the top. In the middle of the innings, they get stuck and the run rate begins to come down when it should be pushing up. They are found seriously wanting again in the slog overs when a few sixes can do a world of good.
The hard fact is that even if they have all their wickets standing, this Bangladesh team won't get past the 250 mark in 50 overs nine times out of ten. That is never an adequate total against any opponent considering our limited bowling resources. The same theory applies if we are chasing a target. Given this glum scenario, it's difficult to see a win in the abridged version in near future unless we are extremely lucky.
Whatmore must be anxious to unearth a couple of youngsters who can really whack the ball before the start of the one-day series against England but he'll have his work cut out.
Looking around the domestic cricket scene, there are only three cricketers who come to mind who can still do the job for the Tigers-- the estranged former Bangladesh captain Naimur Rahman, Abahani's all-rounder Rahul Neeyamur Rashid and the out of favour opener Al-Shahriar.
Incidentally, all three are products of the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan (BKSP) where their natural aggressive qualities were never ignored by coaches who understood the importance of power-play.
The trio can clear the fence with effortless ease but they are in their late twenties and are the last torch-bearers of the big-hitting breed. The rest of the cupboard is frighteningly bare. You could actually count the number of over-boundaries hit by local batsmen in all domestic competitions last season with your fingertips and that's no exaggeration.
Cricket in this country has gone through some radical changes over the last decade with the focus shifting to technique and perfection. That's fine as long as we don't compromise with God-given talent.
Not everyone can hit sixes at will. It requires a special kind of talent and guts to throw caution to the wind. Maybe Whatmore is already working on a plan to change the misconception that good basic and big hitting don't go together. Maybe the search for the illusive braveheart will not take us that long.
Source: Daily Star