A tinge of baggy green
The cricket world may have been shocked by India and South Africa's capitulation against Bangladesh in the World Cup, but all those who have been working behind the scenes in Bangladesh cricket were hardly surprised by the result. It took four years of hard work to achieve the kind of results that the country had been waiting for.
Bangladesh also emerged as the third-most successful ODI team in the world in 2006, winning 18 of the 28 matches they played in the course of the year. The Bangladesh team is no longer fearful of failure. Their recent successes have given them the confidence to go into any match, against any opposition with the belief that they can beat the best.
Believe it or not, the seeds of Bangladesh's success were sown four years ago when the BCB decided to adopt the Australian model to develop cricket in the country. MoUs were signed at various levels resulting in various exchange programmes between the two cricket boards.
Coaches from Cricket Australia's high-profile academy continue to lend their expertise to the BCB with Allister de Winter contributing his mite as the high-performance manager as well as the head coach of the National Cricket Academy. The academy has been designed to deliver a quality programme that will prepare these players to compete and win at the international level.
The chosen ones for the academy are the most talented players in the country, who are below the age of 23. The high-performance programme includes physical conditioning and development of skills and game-sense.
Another Australian, Shaun Williams, heads the game development programme that has helped the BCB to enhance the standard of its coaching staff, trainers, players and curators.
Bangladesh played their first-ever Test in 2000 and realised soon enough that survival in the big, bad world of international cricket depended on how quickly the BCB could put in place adequate infrastructure and a supply line to feed the national team.
Most of the Bangladesh players who featured in the inaugural Test against India in Dhaka graduated straight from club cricket to Test level. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) neither had an age-group programme nor the facilities to train juniors at that stage. These procedures were put in place gradually, but the Bangladesh team continued to struggle in international cricket.
The first signs of a turnaround were noticed in 2004 when Bangladesh colts under Australian coach Richard McInnes won the Plate final in the U-19 World Cup held in Dhaka. Soon, the senior team under Dav Whatmore was teeming with colts who had done well in the Junior World Cup. Aftab Ahmed, Nafees Iqbal and Shahadat Hossain had burst forth. To their credit these extremely talented cricketers made their presence felt immediately.
This prompted the BCB officials to introduce a high-performance programme that would bear fruits in two years. Bangladesh, therefore had a wonderful bunch of youngsters in 2006 when the next edition of the junior World Cup was held in Sri Lanka. The Bangladesh team was considered to be the favourites to win the Cup on the basis of their stupendous show in the run-up to the tournament.
True to their form, Bangladesh won all their group league matches to march into the quarterfinals. But they had one poor game against England and crashed out. The Bangladesh team could not believe it as the same team had won 14 matches on the trot against various teams in the run up to the World Cup.
Even though the result broke Bangladeshi hearts, it threw up the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Mehrab Hossain (Jr). Saqibul Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who had already played for the national team, also emerged as leading lights. This particular generation of Bangladeshi cricketers are undoubtedly the fittest ever.
Excited by the success of their junior players, the BCB launched its National Cricket Academy in July 2006 with the aim of ensuring continued development of the youngsters even after they step into senior ranks. At the moment, Bangladeshi cricket is brimming with talent.
NCA head coach De Winter summed it up best recently: "They (Bangla youngsters) are naturally gifted. At their age they are better than the Australian boys. They may not be strong enough mentally or physically but they are much more skillful. So at the academy we try to make them tougher and stronger and disciplined about their cricket. You can see the reflection of that."
If you find shades of baggy green in Bangladeshi cricket, you now know where it's coming from.
Times of India